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Back When We Were Grownups (Ballantine Reader's Circle)by Anne Tyler
Synopses & Reviews
Eudora Welty once said: "If I could have written the last sentence of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant I'd have been happy the rest of my life." That must have gratified Anne Tyler, who considered Welty an early hero. Still, Tyler is not the sort to seek satisfaction in a single sentence, or even a single novel. She is not a magnum opus kind of gal. "I think of my work as a whole," she said in 1977. "And really what it seems to me I'm doing is populating a town. Pretty soon it's going to be just full of lots of people I've made up." After fifteen novels, that town has gotten full. It has also become a major destination on the American literary landscape. Tyler's career has been distinguished less by any particular achievement — though many exceptional ones leap to mind — than by her ability to sustain, year in, year out, a remarkably high level of excellence. And for the past forty years, Tyler has been producing one quirky, puzzled, deeply sympathetic character after another. Add to that list Rebecca Davitch who, thirty years after dumping an earnest college boyfriend to marry a sexy divorcé who throws parties for a living, wonders whether she hasn't "turned into the wrong person." Tyler portrays Rebecca's struggle to distinguish her real self from the many pseudo-selves she has collected over the years — to rediscover the young grownup she once was — with as much subtlety, humor, and grace as any novelist writing today. But the real achievement is this: Back When We Were Grownups is as good as anything she has yet written. That is truly something to be happy about. Farley, Powells.com
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." So Anne Tyler opens this irresistible new novel.
The woman is Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother. Is she an impostor in her own life? she asks herself. Is it indeed her own life? Or is it someone else's? On the surface, Beck, as she is known to the Davitch clan, is outgoing, joyous, a natural celebrator. Giving parties is, after all, her vocation — something she slipped into even before finishing college, when Joe Davitch spotted her at an engagement party in his family's crumbling nineteenth-century Baltimore row house, where giving parties was the family business. What caught his fancy was that she seemed to be having such a wonderful time. Soon this large-spirited older man, a divorcé with three little girls, swept her into his orbit, and before she knew it she was embracing his extended family plus a child of their own, and hosting endless parties in the ornate, high-ceilinged rooms of The Open Arms.
Now, some thirty years later, after presiding over a disastrous family picnic, Rebecca is caught un-awares by the question of who she really is. How she answers it — how she tries to recover her girlhood self, that dignified grownup she had once been — is the story told in this beguiling, funny, and deeply moving novel.
As always with Anne Tyler's novels, once we enter her world it is hard to leave. But in Back When We Were Grownups she so sharpens our perceptions and awakens so many untapped feelings that we come away not only refreshed and delighted, but also infinitely wiser.
"Tyler also has a gift...for unfurling intricate stories effortlessly, as if by whimsy or accident." Publishers Weekly
"In her deeply moving and perfectly syncopated new novel, Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler presents a stunning portrait of fifty-three-year-old Rebecca Davitch....There's not a flat line in this book, not a single simple character, not a moment that isn't tapped for all its glorious possibilities....This is storytelling at its best and most breathtaking. Tyler, an acknowledged master of the form, is living up to her well-earned reputation." Beth Kephart, Book Magazine
"This novel is a treasure, a jubilant look at a woman who embarks on a modern search for herself with style, grace, and, yes, celebration." The Miami Herald
"One does not so much read a Tyler novel as visit it. Her ability to conduct several conversations at once while getting the food to the table turns the act of reading into a kind of transport....In a literary landscape that too often mistakes sarcasm for humor and self-reference for irony, an Anne Tyler novel, brimming with the real thing, calls for a toast." San Francisco Chronicle
"Packed with life in all its humdrum complexity and funny, so funny, the kind that compels reading aloud. A masterful effort from one of our very best." Kirkus Reviews
"Wise, kind, rueful and clear-eyed...and her truths are as gritty as earth and as interesting as the world." Amy Bloom, Elle
"Her feel for character is so keen that even hardened metafictionalists [who] would happily fry the whole notion of ?character? for breakfast are reduced to the role of helpless gossips, swapping avid hunches about the possible fates of the characters." Tom Shone, The New Yorker
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author's #1 national bestseller, now in paperback, is a tender novel about aging, marriage, friendship, motherhood...and one extraordinary woman living an ordinary life.
Since her first publication in 1992, celebrated novelist Ann Patchett has crafted a number of elegant novels, garnering accolades and awards along the way. Now comes a reissue of the best-selling debut novel that launched her remarkable career.
St. Elizabeths, a home for unwed mothers in Habit, Kentucky, usually harbors its residents for only a little while. Not so Rose Clinton, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed, and stays. She plans to give up her child, thinking she cannot be the mother it needs. But when Cecilia is born, Rose makes a place for herself and her daughter amid St. Elizabeths extended family of nuns and an ever-changing collection of pregnant teenage girls. Roses past wont be kept away, though, even by St. Elizabeths; she cannot remain untouched by what she has left behind, even as she cannot change who she has become in the leaving.
“A WONDERFUL NOVEL . . . Tylers eye and ear for familial give and take is unerring, her humanity irresistible. Youll want to turn back to the first chapter the moment you finish the last.”
-People (Page-Turner of the Week)
“STUNNING . . . ‘Once upon a time, the story begins, ‘there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. . . . With Rebecca Davitch, Tyler has created a character who is brave enough to look back on her life and to imagine herself making different kinds of choices. Brave enough to wonder what honesty looks like, whether there is ever really a single distillation of self that is unshakable and true. . . . Anne Tyler has a talent for spinning out characters . . . who go on living long after their stories end.”
-The Baltimore Sun
“Her characters endear themselves to the reader with their candor and their wit and their simple decency. . . . The charm of an Anne Tyler novel lies in the clarity of her prose and the wisdom of her observations.”
-The Washington Post Book World
“RESEMBLES JANE AUSTENS PERSUASION IN THAT ITS A NOVEL ABOUT SECOND CHANCES . . . The tension that keeps the narrative alive is our desire for Rebecca to get the recognition and respect that we know she deserves from her family, and from herself. Its always good to have a character to root for.”
-San Jose Mercury News
“Maybe theres 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.”
-The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. This is Anne Tyler's fifteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore.
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