Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Who can resist an opening line such as this?
I first read Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups ten years ago, and my experience then was very different than my experience now. At age 52, I am almost the same age as the heroine, Rebecca Davitch, and have a much deeper appreciation of her conflicts. Left alone (in her case by the death of her husband) and unsuccessful in finding new love? A doormat to her children and others who depend on her? Forced by circumstances to keep putting one foot in front of the other with little time for either planning or reflection? Boy, can I relate. Over the course of the book, Rebecca reviews the decisions that she made that led her off her original path. Not exactly unhappy with her life, she cannot help but wonder “what if?” and begins to take steps to reinvent herself. Not that anyone notices. But that is beside the point.
Ms. Tyler does a wonderful job of capturing those everyday moments – and accompanying thoughts – that define our existence. At his hundredth birthday party, Poppy (the brother of Rebecca’s late father-in-law) says, “Face it. There IS no true life. Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got.”
It’s really as simple as that. Recommended!