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Welcome to our audiobook review of “Back When We Were Grownups” by renowned author, Anne Tyler. In this review, we will delve into the narration and production quality, characters and story development, themes and messages, writing style and language, pacing and plot structure, emotional impact, and more. With our detailed analysis, we aim to provide you with an objective assessment of this audiobook and help you make an informed decision before you hit the ‘play’ button.

So, whether you’re a long-time fan of Anne Tyler or looking to discover her writing for the first time, join us as we explore “Back When We Were Grownups” in this audiobook review.

About the Author – Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is an American novelist and short-story writer, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941. She graduated from Duke University in 1961 and completed graduate work at Columbia University, where she studied Russian literature. Tyler has published over twenty novels, including “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,” “The Accidental Tourist,” and “Digging to America.”

Tyler’s novels often explore the complexities and intersections of family relationships and the challenges of modern life, with a keen eye for detail and an ear for dialogue that draws readers in. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for “Breathing Lessons.”

With a distinctive and compelling writing style, Anne Tyler has become one of the most respected and successful authors of her generation, delighting readers with her vivid portrayals of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances.

Introduction to “Back When We Were Grownups”

“Back When We Were Grownups” is a novel by Anne Tyler that explores the themes of identity, family, and the choices we make in life. The story follows the life of Rebecca Davitch, a 53-year-old who feels as though she is living the wrong life. She constantly questions the choices she’s made and the paths she’s taken. Even her family, which includes her boyfriend, three stepdaughters, and her own daughter, fails to bring her the joy she desires.

The novel is set in Baltimore, Maryland, a city that has significance in several of Tyler’s novels. While the city isn’t explicitly referenced, the setting and culture of Baltimore play a significant role in the story.

The novel is narrated in the third person, allowing readers to gain insight into the thoughts and motivations of multiple characters. Through this narrative style, we get a glimpse into the perspectives of Rebecca’s family members and how they contribute to her feelings of dissatisfaction.

Main Themes of “Back When We Were Grownups”

  • Identity: The novel explores the concept of identity and how we can lose sight of who we are over time. Rebecca’s constant questioning of her life choices is a reflection of this theme.
  • Family dynamics: The novel examines how family relationships can shape us and often define who we become. Rebecca’s relationships with her family members help to drive the plot.
  • Choices and consequences: The novel explores the idea that we are responsible for the choices we make in life and how they impact our future. Rebecca reflects on her past choices throughout the story, highlighting this theme.

The use of these themes throughout the novel makes “Back When We Were Grownups” a thought-provoking and relatable read, resonating with anyone who has questioned their life choices or the paths they’ve taken.

Narration and Production Quality

One key aspect of assessing an audiobook is the quality of narration, and “Back When We Were Grownups” does not disappoint. The narrator, Blair Brown, captures the essence of the story’s protagonist, Rebecca, with grace and authenticity.

Additionally, the production quality of the audiobook is superb, with clear and crisp sound and well-timed background music that enhances the listening experience without distracting from the story.

Comparison to Other Audiobooks

Compared to other audiobooks in its genre, “Back When We Were Grownups” stands out in terms of narration and production value. The attention to detail in sound design and the carefully selected narrator make for an immersive and enjoyable listening experience.

Overall Assessment

Overall, the narration and production quality of “Back When We Were Grownups” elevate the audiobook to a higher level of excellence. Whether you are seeking thoughtful commentary on family life or simply an engaging listening experience, this audiobook is a must-listen for fans of Anne Tyler’s work.

Characters and Story Development

The characters in “Back When We Were Grownups” are complex and well-developed, each with their own unique personality traits and motivations. The protagonist, Rebecca, grapples with feelings of discontent and a sense of unfulfilled potential as she reflects on the choices she made in her youth.

The story follows Rebecca as she navigates through the expected and unexpected twists and turns of life, exploring themes such as identity, family dynamics, and the passage of time. The plot is driven by Rebecca’s internal struggles and her external relationships with her family, friends, and romantic interests.

Overall, the story’s development is steady, though at times it can feel slow-paced. However, the gradual revelations and character interactions make for a compelling and thought-provoking narrative.

Themes and Messages

As we explore deeper into “Back When We Were Grownups” by Anne Tyler, it becomes apparent that the novel delves into various pertinent themes and conveys several powerful messages.

One of the key themes of the novel is the idea of self-discovery and identity. The protagonist, Rebecca Davitch, is on a quest to rediscover her true self, find her place in the world, and understand her purpose. Through Rebecca’s journey, the novel explores the complexities of personal identity and how it can be impacted by family, culture, and society.

Another important theme of the novel is the idea of family dynamics and the challenges that come with it. Tyler presents a realistic portrayal of a large, extended family and their complex relationships. The novel shows how families can be both a source of comfort and a source of conflict, emphasizing the importance of communication and understanding.

The novel also explores the theme of regret and the impact of our life choices. Through Rebecca’s reflections on her past, the novel reminds us of the power of hindsight and how our decisions can shape our lives. Tyler’s message is clear: it’s never too late to make changes and chase new dreams.

Overall, “Back When We Were Grownups” is a thought-provoking novel with many powerful themes and messages. Tyler’s storytelling ability enables the audience to reflect on their own lives and experiences, making it a fantastic book for listeners of all ages.

Writing Style and Language

Anne Tyler’s writing style and language choices are key factors contributing to the overall reading experience of “Back When We Were Grownups” audiobook. Tyler’s writing style is characterized by its clarity, simplicity, and lexical precision. She uses vivid imagery and detail to portray her characters and their surroundings in excellent clarity, which enables listeners to immerse themselves in the story fully.

The author’s language choices are essential to building a realistic and relatable world for readers. Tyler uses colloquial language and dialect to reflect the character’s backgrounds and personalities, which adds to the authenticity of the narrative. Her use of metaphors and other literary devices conveys meaning and emotion effectively, contributing to the engaging and poignant listening experience.

writing style

The “Back When We Were Grownups” audiobook’s writing style and language choices are masterfully crafted, delivering a rich and satisfying narrative experience, making it a must-listen for fans of insightful and emotional fiction.

Pacing and Plot Structure

One of the strengths of “Back When We Were Grownups” is its well-paced plot structure. The story unfolds at a consistent pace, with enough twists and turns to keep the listener engaged without feeling rushed. Anne Tyler’s expert use of pacing creates a sense of tension and momentum, drawing the listener deeper into the story.

The plot structure is also well-crafted, with careful attention paid to character development and narrative arcs. Each character’s story is woven together seamlessly to form a cohesive whole, and the listener is left with a satisfying resolution at the end of the audiobook.

The Back When We Were Grownups audiobook is an excellent example of a well-structured and paced story that keeps the listener entertained and engaged throughout.

Emotional Impact

“Back When We Were Grownups” by Anne Tyler is a captivating novel that evokes a range of emotions from its listeners. Tyler’s expertly crafted characters and their relatable struggles make it easy for listeners to empathize and invest emotionally in the story. Throughout the audiobook, listeners may find themselves experiencing feelings of nostalgia, longing, hope, and despair as they are taken on a journey of self-discovery and family dynamics.

The raw emotions and authentic conversations portrayed in the novel make it incredibly relatable, allowing listeners to connect with the characters on a deep and personal level. The audiobook’s well-crafted narration further enhances the emotional impact of the story, bringing the characters and their struggles to life in a way that is both powerful and moving.

Overall, “Back When We Were Grownups” is a captivating audiobook that is sure to leave listeners feeling emotionally fulfilled. Tyler’s ability to create complex characters that resonate with listeners and the narrator’s exceptional delivery make this audiobook a must-listen for anyone interested in stories that pack an emotional punch.

Comparison with Other Anne Tyler Novels

Anne Tyler is known for her unique voice and storytelling ability, and “Back When We Were Grownups” is no exception. However, how does it compare to her other works? Let’s take a closer look.

Similarities in Style and Themes

Like many of her novels, “Back When We Were Grownups” focuses on family dynamics, marital struggles, and self-discovery. Tyler’s writing style is character-driven, with a focus on internal conflicts and emotions. These elements are present in many of her other works, including “The Accidental Tourist” and “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.”

Differences in Narration and Plot

Compared to some of Tyler’s other novels, “Back When We Were Grownups” has a more introspective and contemplative tone. The plot is less eventful and more focused on the protagonist’s internal struggles. Additionally, the first-person narration in “Back When We Were Grownups” is a departure from Tyler’s typical third-person narration, as seen in “Breathing Lessons” and “Saint Maybe.”

Anne Tyler’s Signature Elements

Despite the differences between her novels, Tyler’s signature elements can be found throughout her body of work. Her ability to capture the complexities of human emotions and relationships is a hallmark of her writing, as is her use of everyday language to convey deep and profound truths. Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to Tyler’s work, “Back When We Were Grownups” is a must-read (or must-listen) for anyone who appreciates insightful and heartfelt storytelling.

Anne Tyler novels comparison

Reception and Critic Reviews

The audiobook version of “Back When We Were Grownups” has received mixed reviews from critics and readers alike. While some have praised Anne Tyler’s masterful storytelling and the narrator’s performance, others have criticized the slow pacing and lack of action in the plot.

The book has an average rating of 3.7 stars on Goodreads, with many readers commenting on the relatable characters and themes of self-discovery and family relationships. Some readers have also noted that the audiobook adds an additional layer of emotional depth to the story.

A review by Publishers Weekly praised Tyler’s ability to “conjure a whole world” through her writing, but noted that the lack of action may not be suitable for all listeners. The New York Times Book Review similarly commended Tyler’s insightful characterization but criticized the slow pacing of the novel.

Overall, while “Back When We Were Grownups” may not be for everyone, it is worth a listen for those who enjoy character-driven stories and introspective themes.

Recommendation and Final Thoughts

After careful consideration of the narration, production quality, story development, themes, writing style, pacing, emotional impact, and reception, we highly recommend the audiobook “Back When We Were Grownups” by Anne Tyler.

The narrator’s performance captivates the listener, bringing the story to life with excellent production quality. While the story’s pacing and plot structure may not suit everyone’s taste, the characterization and deep exploration of complex themes make up for it, evoking strong emotional responses in the reader.

We appreciate the unique and unmistakable style of Anne Tyler, which shines through in “Back When We Were Grownups.” The novel provides a powerful and thought-provoking commentary on life’s meaning and the choices that shape our destiny.

Overall, we highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoys character-driven stories and wants to explore the timeless themes of love, loss, and identity. “Back When We Were Grownups” leaves a lasting impression and stays with the listener long after the final chapter.

Listen to “Back When We Were Grownups” today and experience a compelling story that will stay with you for years to come.


Overall, “Back When We Were Grownups” by Anne Tyler is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel, brought to life through a well-produced audiobook. The narration by Blair Brown is exceptional and elevates the story’s emotional impact, making it a compelling listening experience that will stay with listeners long after it’s finished.

Tyler’s writing style and language are highly engaging, and the story’s pacing and plot structure keep the listener hooked from start to finish. The characters are well-developed, and their journeys are relatable and touching.

The novel explores themes of identity, family, and the passage of time, offering an insightful commentary on the human experience. It’s a quintessential Anne Tyler novel that delivers on all fronts.

We highly recommend “Back When We Were Grownups” as an audiobook that will reward listeners with its depth, nuance, and heart.

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