At 53, Rebecca Davitch begins to question the path her life has taken over the decades. Sprung from a tepid engagement at 19 when she fell for a widower with several small children, she quit college and took on a ready-made family and new vocation, only to be widowed several years later. Now, seeing the family she's raised, the business she's run, and, more importantly, herself, from a new perspective, she's horrified to think that she has grown so far apart from her young self. For Rebecca, this realization is symbolized by her hair: "Once she had been the most serene and dignified young woman ... She had worn her hair in a crown of braids, and friends had complimented her on the level way she carried her head, which had made her broad figure seem almost regal."
Now a decidedly non-regal, floppy-haired, blowzy grandmother in a mildewy house, she sets out to try on her old self. On this score, Rebecca faces the age-old conundrum: Does loving someone and/or raising children mean losing yourself? If so, is that acceptable? If not, how do you get your old self back? And what if you realize you don't like your old self, what then? By turns comical and sad, and in ways thoroughly engrossing to the reader, her search leads to unexpected and unglamorous conclusions.
Stylistically, Tyler's prose stays out of the reader's way, creating a whole that is better than its parts. Her words occasionally leap off the page, though, as when she describes a newborn as "curled over like a little cashew." Reading Grownups is a pleasant diversion. It is only when one comes to the end that the universal struggles of Everywoman reach out and grab the reader by the throat.