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Back When We Were Grownups


Back When We Were Grownups Cover



Author Q & A

Q: What was the genesis of this novel? Did a particular character

or situation come to mind first?

AT: I plotted Back When We Were Grownups just after emerging

from a year in which there had been several losses and serious illnesses

in my family. I wanted my next novel to be full of joy and

celebration, which is how I ended up with a main character who

earned her living throwing parties.

That a sense of loss shows through anyway, at a later point in

the book, is proof that the subconscious always tends to triumph in

the end.

Q: Why did you choose this title for the novel? Were there others

that you discarded along the way?

AT: It's one of my few organic, natural-born titles; it was always

there, on its own

Q: Has Rebecca really become the wrong person?

AT: Well, of course she's become a different person. But not the

wrong one, as it turns out.

Q: Why is it so difficult for Rebecca to see that she chose Joe

and the Davitches just as they chose her?

AT: Rebecca is no more astute--or less--than most of us about her

reasons for doing things. If people were fully conscious of their

motives, novelists wouldn't have anything to write novels about.

Q: Would you agree that Rebecca is unaware, on some important

level, that she has become the center of the Davitch family?

AT: Yes. She's a very modest and unassuming woman; it wouldn't

occur to her that she could be so important to other people.

Q: Has Rebecca finally come to terms with the family and the

life she ended up with? Will she ever stop feeling like an outsider,

like a not-a-Davitch?

AT: The point at which I decide a novel is finished is the point

where I say, "My character has arrived, and I can picture him or her

more or less settled there forever." So yes, by the end of the book

she has come to terms with her life. (She's still not-a-Davitch, but

that's immaterial.)

Q: Did Rebecca ever have a chance to truly mourn Joe, given

the incredible responsibilities that were thrust upon her with his


AT: Even with all those responsibilities, she did mourn--but I

think of it as a kind of stupor of mourning, unlike the more

reflective kind of grief that she experiences toward the end of the


Q: Poppy refuses to hide his grief over his dead wife, which perturbs

many of the Davitches. Is his behavior, like the constant

reciting of Aunt Joyce's funeral poem, troubled or simply


AT: I certainly didn't mean to imply he was troubled. This is his

particular response to loss--the opposite, or maybe the underside,

of Rebecca's response to her own loss.

Q: Rebecca thinks she would have stayed with Will if Joe had

not swept her off her feet. Was this a likely scenario?

AT: That's the kind of question I trust readers to know the answer

to once they've read the novel.

Q: "Their [Rebecca and Will's] past was a bolt of fabric they had

scissored up and divided between them." What do they gain

from their exchange of memories?

AT: It's more a question of what the reader gains: a sense, I hope, of

how fractured and subjective our interpretation of our past is.

Q: Could the Davitches--all of them--have helped Will open

up to the world? Or is it too late for him?

AT: Some people really are not capable of change. I think Will is

one of them. Any effort the Davitches might have made would

probably have just overwhelmed him.

Q: Rebecca's treatment of Will--rejecting him for a second time

after inviting him into her life--could be considered cruel. Do

you agree?

AT: It was painful, yes. ("Cruel" implies too much of an intent to

give pain.) I felt downright guilty when I wrote that scene. But for

Rebecca to have stayed with him would have been even more

painful. Sometimes, you just have to make that choice.

Q: We know how Zeb feels, but it is unclear how Rebecca feels

about him. Might something romantic ever happen between the

two of them?

AT: Someday, Zeb and Rebecca are going to marry. The Davitches

will be taken aback at first, but they'll warm to the idea wholeheartedly

as soon as they've adjusted.

Q: Rebecca reflects that "there were no perfect parties." Why

are people, like so many of the Davitches, often unwilling to recognize

how much hard work celebrations are?

AT: It wasn't the hard work of celebrations that I had in mind;

it was the fact that there is no perfect event, period--that

every human interaction is necessarily a mixed and mingled


Q: Rebecca's disapproving mother continues to exert a powerful

influence over her as does Rebecca over her daughters. Is it possible

to ever stop being your parent's child or your child's


AT: Yes, on occasion. But for a novelist the people who don't stop

are much more interesting.

Q: Do you ever find yourself getting angry at or having trouble

writing for thorny and difficult characters like Patch and

Rebecca's mother?

AT: In real life I might be very annoyed by some of my characters. I

find it a great deal easier to be tolerant of them on paper.

Q: Once you have created a fictional universe, is it hard to turn

it over to the rest of the world? Do you feel protective of your


AT: I always have a spell of maternal anxiety when a manuscript is

finally on its way to New York (where, for the first time, someone

other than me will see it). I picture my characters riding the train,

independent of me at last, excited and shy and unsure of themselves.

But once they've arrived and been accepted, I tend to forget

about them.

Q: If you had to choose a favorite character in this novel,

besides Rebecca, which would it be and why?

AT: I'm very fond of Peter. I like his curiosity and is active mind; I

think he's going to grow up to be a very interesting young man.

Q: What other books would you suggest for a reading group discussion?

AT: The most rewarding choice for reading groups would be a book

that they could argue about passionately among themselves.

Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children,for instance--people

have always loved that book or hated it. It could make for a

wonderfully lively discussion.

Q: Are you working a new novel?

AT: I'm in the early stages of a novel about an unhappy marriage--

a subject that intrigues me because it provides such a good opportunity

to watch different types of characters grating against each

other. It begins in 1941, and I'm finding it an unexpected pleasure

to live in another time for a while.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

A Novel
Alfred A. Knopf
Tyler, Anne
Anne Tyler
Baltimore (Md.)
Fiction : Literary
Directors of corporations
Psychological fiction
Domestic fiction
General Fiction
Audio Books-Literature
Literature-A to Z
Romance - General
Edition Description:
Large Print
Publication Date:

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Back When We Were Grownups
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 273 pages Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group - English 9780375413490 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "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 divorce 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.
"Synopsis" by , Beck Davitch looks back on her thirty-year marriage to Joe and her role as a mother and manager of the Open Arms, wondering if she is living the life she was meant to live and reconsidering her dedication to the family business. 250,000 first printing.
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