So begins Anne Tyler's telling of a slice of life particularly interesting to me.
What can I say about Back When We Were Grownups? Having recently read her Digging to America, I was prepared for the style, and yet I was pleasantly surprised that this sort of non-novel was so captivating to me. Could it be because it recounts part of the journey of a 53 year old mother and grandmother who sits at the top of a large, crazy family? Yeah, that must be it. Rebecca Davitch is a woman who looks around one day and gets the distinct impression that she's out of place in her own life, that she's living someone else's life, one she never intended to take on. The book tells the story of how she finds out who she really is...I won't give away more than that.
Though this book might be a pleasure for any woman to read, it's especially delicious for its accurate and delicious descriptions of what it's like to be female, middle-aged, and her case, "alone." It comes across as comfortable, endearing, and heartbreakingly honest. As in Digging, Tyler seems light on plot and heavy on character development and nuance. And sometimes that's okay with me. After all, isn't that really how life is? Yes, there are times when I want a page-turner with triple plot twists and a surprise ending. And if that's what you're looking for, stay away from Tyler. She'd rather entrance you with her ability to make you say to yourself, "Oh my! That's exactly how I've felt! You mean it's not just me?"
If you're in your fifth or sixth (or seventh) decade of life you're bound to love this book. If you're younger than that, it might not have exactly the same appeal, but it will certainly help you understand me, or your mother, or any of the other dear women in your life that reside in the land of estrogen replacement. And it will be one you'll surely remember if and when you wake up one morning and discover you might have turned into the wrong person.