When Joe Davitch first saw Rebecca, it was at a party at the Davitch home - a crumbling 19th-century row house in Baltimore where giving parties was the family business. Young Rebecca appeared to Joe as the girl having more fun than anyone in the room and he wanted some of that happiness to spill over onto him, a 33-year-old divorce with two ...
When Joe Davitch first saw Rebecca, it was at a party at the Davitch home - a crumbling 19th-century row house in Baltimore where giving parties was the family business. Young Rebecca appeared to Joe as the girl having more fun than anyone in the room and he wanted some of that happiness to spill over onto him, a 33-year-old divorce with two little girls. Swept away, Rebecca soon found herself mistress of 'The Open Arms', embracing not only this large spirited man and his extended family but expertly hosting endless parties in the ornate, high-ceilinged rooms where people paid to have their family celebrations in style. But now, years after she has lost her husband in an automobile accident, Beck (as she is known to the Davitch clan) asks herself whether she is an impostor in her own life. Is she really this natural-born celebrator, joyous and outgoing? Can she always be there for Poppy, her almost 100-year-old uncle-in-law who lives on the top floor, for stepdaughters - Biddy and Nono and Patch and the husbands - as they come and go, and their children - and for her own daughter Minfoo, about to marry a stockbroker? What would have happened if she'd married her blond college sweetheart, back then when they were so young and so serious and so sure about everything? And can one really recover the person one has left behind? With perfect pitch Anne Tyler explores these questions of love and loss, of identity and family, making us both laugh and cry in a novel that we wish would never end.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-04-09 On the first page of Tyler's stunning new novel, Rebecca Davitch, the heroine (and heroine is exactly the right word) realizes that she has become the "wrong person." No longer the "serene and dignified young woman" she was at 20, at 53 Rebecca finds she has become family caretaker and cheerleader, a woman with a "style of dress edging dangerously close to Bag Lady." So she tries to do something about it. In the midst of her busy life as mother, grandmother and proprietor of the family business, the Open Arms (she hosts parties in the family's old Baltimore row house), Rebecca attempts to pick up the life she was leading before she married, back when she felt grownup. She visits her hometown in Virginia, locates the boyfriend she jilted and renews her intellectual interests. But as Rebecca ponders the life-that-might-have-been, the reader learns about the life-that-was. At 20, she left college and abandoned her high school sweetheart to marry a man who already had a large family to support. A year later, she had a baby of her own; five years later, her husband died in an auto accident, and she was left to raise four daughters, tend to her aging uncle-in-law and support them all. And a difficult lot they are, seldom crediting Rebecca for holding her rangy family together. Yet like all of Tyler's characters, they are charming in their dysfunction. And much as one feels for Rebecca, much as one wants her to find love, it's difficult to imagine her leaving or upsetting the family order. Tyler (The Accidental Tourist; Breathing Lessons) has a gift for creating endearing characters, but readers should find Rebecca particularly appealing, for despite the blows she takes, she bravely keeps on trying. Tyler also has a gift genius is more like it for unfurling intricate stories effortlessly, as if by whimsy or accident. The ease of her storytelling here is breathtaking, but almost unnoticeable because, rather like Rebecca, Tyler never calls attention to what she does. Late in the novel, Rebecca observes that her younger self had wanted to believe "that there were grander motivations in history than mere family and friends, mere domestic happenstance." Tyler makes it plain: nothing could be more grand. (May 8) Forecast: A 250,000 first printing seems almost modest considering the charms of Tyler's latest and the devotion of her readers. A Random House audiobook and a large-print edition will appear simultaneously, and the book is a BOMC main selection and an alternate selection of QPB, the Literary Guild, the Doubleday Book Club and Doubleday Large Print. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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