Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Review -- Back When We Were Grownups

Back When We Were Grownups Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

What if? We’ve all had “what if” moments – what if we had taken the other job? Dated the other person? Moved to that different city? Gone to a different college? I’d like to think most of us are happy with the decisions we’ve made and the road we have traveled because of them. However, there are those who look back with regret.

Rebecca Davitch is asking “what if?” and has the unique position of finding out. After being a widow for over 25 years, Rebecca asks herself, “who am I” and “how did I get here?” After successfully operating the family reception business that she inherited after the death of her husband Joe, she wonders if there is anything else in life. This internal question leads her to reacquaint herself with an old boyfriend, Will, who has become the local community college’s Dean of Physics. Rebecca soon learns that Will is not whom she remembers and that “you can’t go home again.”

During this internal struggle, Rebecca is also dealing with a menagerie of family – stepdaughters, daughter, grandchildren, sons-in-law, brother-in-law and great uncle-in-law (all with names that drove me bonkers). They inhabit her space and occupy most of her time. Rebecca’s family is disrespectful and profoundly ungrateful for all that she does. Why do family members treat those they love with the most contempt? They would never treat strangers the way they treat Rebecca.

Ultimately, I found this book annoying. The character’s names are distracting. Until the very last page I had to remind myself, “who is NoNo, Patch, Jeep, Biddy, Poppy, Min Foo – and to whom do they belong and, more importantly, why do I care?”

Back When We Were Grownups was about a restless matriarch in a dysfunctional family and ultimately, a dysfunctional book.

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