It is no surprise that Back When We Were Grownups was once a New York Times Bestseller. Anne Tyler’s descriptions pin-point exact feelings and experiences. They are perfectly done. Her characters are familiar and human, especially Rebecca Davitch (the main character).
Anne Tyler introduces us to Rebecca as “a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” Tyler then goes on to share with us the whole of this woman’s character, choices, and motivations.
Rebecca Davitch is completely fleshed out until she is as good as real. We come to know her past and present. We come to know the alternate reality she wishes for. We come to know the potential of her future.
We find Rebecca in the middle of life, all of the sudden realizing she is not being the self she thought she was. It is a mid-life crisis of another sort. Her discoveries about herself are beautiful and terribly sad, but hopeful and happy as well. We come to see that a person is not just made of their character but also is made up of every mish-mashed experience pressed into their lap. People are complicated beings, and Anne Tyler illustrates that very well in her book about Rebecca Davitch.
Profanity/Language: 7 religious exclamations, 8 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: Children push each other in a squabble.
Sex/Nudity: Adults flirt; premarital sex is mentioned; an unwed pregnant woman is alluded to; adults kiss passionately, not detailed; a character changes clothes, briefly nude; adults have a mature discussion about sex, vaguely detailed; nudity is mentioned; a character tells a short slightly raunchy story; adults lay down together, sexual tension; adults kiss; sex is briefly referred to; false breasts are mentioned; a sexual reference is made; adults hold hands; adults kiss; breasts are mentioned in regards to breastfeeding; breastfeeding is discussed briefly; marital sex is mentioned.
Mature Subject Matter:
Suicide, a racist comment, death of a newborn (briefly mentioned), death of a spouse, divorce.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults drink a few times throughout the book; a few times, adults give children very small amounts of alcohol so they can participate in toasts.