I love to read, but I couldn't get past the first chapter in this book. The storyline was very contrived, it felt like I was reading something written by a 12 year old girl. And as shallow as this may sound, the main characters ridiculous names (NoNo, Patch, Jeep, Biddy, Min Foo, Poppy? Come ON, is this a children's book?!) were what finally made me say "enough" and return this book to the library. Thank goodness it was only borrowed.
On the New York Times Bestseller list. I enjoyed this book very much. It's about a woman in her 50's coming to terms with the fact that over the years, she has lived more and more of her life for others, and has no life of her own. How she discovers this and how she goes about changing the situation is very well written by Anne Tyler.
This is one of Tylers better books. The main character is more fully developed as the book unfolds, and it is hard to find a likeable protagonist that is not young, sexy, exciting. Tyler provides a likeable heroine that is middle aged, not particularly beautiful,over weight and wonders what the road not taken would have been like. I think most of her books are good reads but forgetable. This one is the exception.
I read a recent newspaper article that claimed Tyler's book has one of the best opening lines, and I agree: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." This is a line that draws you into the book and into the main character, Rebecca Davitch, a woman in mid-life who begins to question her life's choices and who attempts to recapture some of what was "lost." This is an interesting story about understanding the difference between being content with one's life and being complacent.
This was a very thoroughly enjoyable book-- not fluff fiction, but a wonderful and easy read anyway. This book shares several themes with Tyler's more recent book, Digging to American-- including older women searching for love and companionship (subtheme: widowhood), the wackiness but comforting aspects of extended family, and stepchildren. The characters in this book are incredibly deep and often moving, including an elder who turns 100 (and has a vividly described party), a daughter obsessed with making gourmet food (she's a caterer) that most of her family would rather not eat (and her resentment around that), and a very creative but weird preteen boy. It's a book that you will want to keep reading until you find out what happens in the end-- but then you realize that the book's main value was about how it made you think about your own life and family.
Very interesting characters and family dynamics. This is a nice easy read - I read it on vacation while riding in the car. I was afraid the author was going to take this in a rote direction, but thankfully she veered from that. An enjoyable book about past choices, the road not taken and self identity.
I really like Anne Tyler. For me this book was good, not great. I didn't really connect with most of the characters, and the story line felt uneven to me. That said, Tyler is one of the best American writers going, and her writing is always superb, so it's always a pleasure to read her work.
Fifty-three yr. old Rebecca reflects on the past thirty years. How she married an older man with three little girls and became caught up in the whirlwind of their lives. Now after Joe's death, she questions who she really is. A funny, deeply moving and charming story.
Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three year old grandmother, suddenly realizes that she has turned into the wrong person in this novel by Anne Tyler. At an engagement party for her stepdaughter, Rebecca suddenly realizes that her life, which had been heading down a certain path in college, had taken a drastic turn and now she is not where she should be. As Rebecca continues planning parties in her Baltimore home (a profession she married into), babysitting her grandchildren at the drop of a hat, and supporting her daughters through their disappointments and squabbles, she contemplates what her life would have (and maybe should have) been if she hadn't changed her course.
This is the first book I have read by acclaimed author Anne Tyler. Her writing style is lovely and calming and the characters are realistic and endearing. She develops them beautifully, and Rebecca's desperate search for purpose and identity (among family members who completely take her for granted) has an alarming ring of truth to it. However, the plot in this book was a little slow moving for me. Long chapters combined with too many characters introduced too soon made it difficult for me to get into the story right away. This certainly wasn't my favorite book, but I will seek out more of Anne Tyler's novels. After all, she did win the Pulitzer!
I really wanted to like this book. I think the idea of it is interesting... but it goes on for almost 300 pages and nothing interesting happens!! I think it is human to look back at your life and think what if I did this or that different. In Rebecca's case it is a romantic relationship. Now that her children are grown, her husband dead, she can't help but wonder about whatever happened to her college sweetheart that she dropped in order to marry a man with three daughters and a party throwing business. Maybe it just that I could not relate to the 53 yr old widowed grandmother of 6, or maybe it is just a boring book.
Maybe because I'm leaving today to meet family on vacation and am anticipating some sibling drama and whatnot, but this book about multi-generational bonding and bickering had me in love by sentence one: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person". I love that opening, and not to give too much away, but in the end she realizes the person she turned in to is exactly right.
The story is about Rebecca who as a college co-ed abruptly dumps her betrothed to marry an older divorced man with three daughters and a party business. At first I thought the title refers to how grown up children of divorce tend to be, as that seems to be the case with Biddy, Patch and Nono; ironically they grow up to be rather child-like in their thoughtlessness. But then it's revealed that it was Rebecca and her highschool sweetheart Will who were the grownups in their youth. Anyways, there is long lost love and philosophical musing, laugh out loud funniness, and that back-of-the-throat achiness that comes from holding back tears.
This was my first Ann Tyler novel, and I love her style of writing, so it will be the first of many I'll read I'm sure. I felt like I knew this large quirky family after the first chapter and didn't want to put the book down.
I just couldn't get into this one - beautiful descriptive writing but too slow for me. I gave up part-way through and didn't ever have the desire to finish! This was my first Anne Tyler book so maybe her slower style just wasn't for me.
I loved this book. This was the first Anne Tyler that I read. It was very interesting and I did not want to put it down! I have since read Ladder of Years and have at least to others on my shelf for later enjoyment!
For anyone 50+ years old who likes to read Anne Tyler, this book is worth the read. I couldn't get into it at first; the character's names are trite and cutesy, but after I got past the first scene, I couldn't wait to put it down. I started listening to it on a library audio book. I had bought the hard cover off the library's "withdrawn" shelf. I found I had to read it as listening to it was just too slow. I would definitely read another book by this author.
I enjoyed listening to the life of Rebecca and the noisy, rowdy, difficult members of the Davitch family. When Rebecca marries Joseph Davitch, she becomes the stepmother of his three kids, then has a daughter of her own. Her husband dies in a car crash, after which yet more Davitches come to live with her. Somehow, Rebecca--in the midst of her own troubles--holds it all together, but, she begins to suspect, at the cost of her own self.
I enjoyed this book very much. The story was tender, funny and thoughtful, the characters were wonderful with all their quirks, and the reader sounded great. I just wish there was an indicator at the end of each disc. I would be part of the way through the first track a 2nd time (and thinking WHAT?) before I would realize the CD had started over again...some music or a ding or something...ha ha!
Although I listened to the book, meaning it traveled at it's own pace it felt slow with much to do about very little. I kept hoping for some revelation or some inspiring thought or moment but it was pretty much this woman living her life to figure out the life she was living was her own. Been done before and in a much more compelling way.
Wonderful Anne Tyler novel. Reads along nicely and reminds this empty nester how things used to feel! Glad to know that there are other more dysfunctional families around than mine. Love Baltimore and food and flowers as the settings.
I felt this story was quite sad, really. Rebecca Davitch realizes that maybe she is living the wrong life-but how to change it? Set in Baltimore, at the end of the 20th century, she is a woman who tries to please everyone, especially her family. When she starts to have doubts about the way her life has gone,---- *SPOILER ALERT* ---- she tracks down an old 'friend' to see if she did in fact make a mistake way back when. I think all, or at least most, 'middle-aged' women will identify with her- what if I'd done it differently?? Lots of characters,lots of family turmoil,a quick read.
Rebecca Davitch is a fifty-three-year-old grandmother who seemingly has everything that she could possibly want in life. Ostensibly, Beck, as she is known within the Davitch clan, is a boisterous extrovert - an outgoing, joyous, natural-born celebrator who really thrives in her role as the family's official life-of-the-party. As a matter of fact, some people might say that giving parties runs in Rebecca's blood, as it became her vocation even before she finished college. Although it was a position that she slipped into naturally, thirty years later Beck has begun to question whether this is the life that she truly wants for herself.
She has also become very involved in the family business; hosting seemingly endless parties in the ornate, high-ceilinged rooms of 'The Open Arms'. However, after presiding over a particularly disastrous family picnic, Rebecca is completely blindsided by the variety of troublesome questions that begin surfacing in her mind in its aftermath. Questions such as whether she is living her own life; or if she has actually become an imposter, capable of living someone else's life, occasionally drift through Rebecca's thoughts.
In an attempt to settle the curious feelings of dissatisfaction that have arisen so suddenly in her life, Rebecca sets out to discover the person that she really is - both her girlhood self, as well as the dignified grownup that she once had been. The story of how Rebecca answers the personal question of who she has become, and what she does to reconcile both of those aspects of her personality, is what forms the basis for this beguiling, funny, and deeply moving novel.
I actually loved this book - the characters really draw you in. If I had one complaint, it would be that it was a little confusing to keep all the characters straight. I give this book an A+!
This story is about a woman in her 50's looking back on all the important relationships in her life. She reflects on the choices she made as well as the "what ifs." This could have been just a story about a mid-life crises, but it is much more! It is a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of life defined by choices. This novel has many funny, even laught out loud moments as well as touching ones. Tyler writes about everyday life and makes it memorable!
Amazon.com's Best of 2001
The first sentence of Anne Tyler's 15th novel sounds like something out of a fairy tale: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." Alas, this discovery has less to do with magic than with a late-middle-age crisis, which is visited upon Rebecca Davitch in the opening pages of Back When We Were Grownups. At 53, this perpetually agreeable widow is "wide and soft and dimpled, with two short wings of dry, fair hair flaring almost horizontally from a center part." Given her role as the matriarch of a large family--and the proprietress of a party-and-catering concern, the Open Arms--Rebecca is both personally and professionally inclined toward jollity. But at an engagement bash for one of her multiple stepdaughters, she finds herself questioning everything about her life: "How on earth did I get like this? How? How did I ever become this person who's not really me?"
I liked it, but it wasn't really what I thought it was going to be like or what I was looking for. I did not agree with the comments on the back of the book. I do feel the woman was not getting the love, respect or recognition she should have been getting from her family, but will keep my conclusion to myself so as not to spoil my ideas for future readers. I will say it is about getting older and wondering "what if" which I can identify with.
Anne Tyler also wrote the Mermaid Chair which I loved. This book was a good read but I didn't think as good as the Mermaid Chair. It shows family interaction, sometimes funny, sometimes sad. It also shows how the family uses their stepmother, Beck for support, babysitting, caring for an elder member, etc. It also shows how Beck through questioning her role gets satisfaction by being needed.
A New York Times Bestseller. "A lovely meditation on youthful expectations, midlife realities, love, loss, longevity, joy and recognizing one's true life." This book elicited quite a range of discussions, emotions and arguments in our book group!
One of the best Ann Tyler I've read! She writes with sensitivity and almost poetry, that makes what she's trying to convey crystal clear. Loved the many faceted characters and their quirkiness endearing them to me.
This is classic Anne Tyler, who is an excellent writer. With her perfect prose, she delivers yet another tale about the lives of everyday people.
This one reminds me a bit of Tyler's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Breathing Lessons.
Caution to those who are looking for an action-packed or dramatic storyline. That's not Tyler's style. She writes in an introspective way about reality, almost always leading the reader to recognize something of oneself in the process.
#1 National bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book.
"Maybe there's something glorious to be said, after all, for companionship, common cause, and sanctuary. And what there is to say, Anne Tyler has been saying for decades, with gravity and grace." - NY Times Book Review