Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting to Happy, by Terry McMillan

When Waiting to Exhale was published in the early 1990s, I enjoyed the story of four African-American thirty-somethings who were "casualties of love" (perhaps because, at the time, I was in the process of getting divorced and shared their views on the generally dog-like nature of men--and the book was funny). So I had some hope that Terry McMillan's return to the four friends--Savannah, Bernie, Robin, and Gloria--would be equally resonant with my now 60-year-old self. Unfortunately, I found it more soap operatic than insightful.

Each of the women, now about 50 (the book is set in 2005, apparently so the women can be appalled by and responsive to Hurricane Katrina), has a problem. Savannah, married for 10 years to a contractor, is bored in her marriage and angry that her husband has an apparent porn addiction. Bernie, betrayed by her second husband, pops tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Robin, a single mom with a boring career in insurance, has a shopping addiction. And Gloria's world is shattered when her husband Marvin is an innocent victim of a gang shoot-out.

Not much really happens as the women try to find their way to happiness that is less rooted in men than in self-realization, and their experiences don't add anything new to my understanding of what makes a rewarding life. While McMillan is a competent writer, the fact that the chapters from two of the women's perspective are written in first person and two in third annoyed me (I don't remember whether Waiting to Exhale was written similarly).

Favorite passage: None

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