As Real as Fiction Gets: Getting to Happy

BlogHer Review

I laughed. I cried, cried, and cried. Then, I was ambivalent. It’s been a long time since a book actually made me laugh out loud, and Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan did that. Overall, this book ranks up there as one I would definitely borrow from the library or buy at a secondhand store.

The novel covers four late-middle-aged women who each are encountering and overcoming major life events. Some have children, some don’t. Some have been married, some haven’t. Only one of the four is truly happy and it all comes crashing down for her very quickly. The novel touches upon infidelity, death, narcotics-usage, divorce, lying, teenaged “coming out” angst, weight problems, rehab, overcoming divorce, and many other very real problems.

In general, I didn’t think the women were put upon a pedestal to be set up as paragons of virtue. These were made-up people with real problems, real character defects, real viewpoints, real quirks, and real relationships. So many books trade on a fantasy-like quality where things always work out or everything is overcome. There is an element of that to this book when the women vow to redo each other for the better, but there is still plenty of realism. Gloria was perhaps the most admirable. She worked with her husband to have a happy marriage and most of the novel covered how she worked out the natural end to her marriage. I found the way that she handled this to be normal and in the end she came through. Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me, I found Tarik to actually be one of the ones I wished I could get to know better. (Spin-off?!)

This book started out really strongly for me. I finished the first half in less than a couple hours. Then, it started to slow down a little. I didn’t agree with some of the characters’ choices and that made it a little less agreeable for me; however, I don’t have to agree with everything and that is part of life. If this book had been part of a book club placed off the internet, people would have been handing me some coffee to shut me up as I exclaimed about how I “couldn’t believe she did that!” I’m just a little crotchety and opinionated. …Be grateful you are reading this via the BlogHer Book Club and not your living room.

I liked the dialogue of the book. I liked the back-and-forth nature. I liked how the book switched between viewpoints; however, I never felt that I truly got to know any one character. This may be partly because I have never seen the movie nor have I read the first book, Waiting to Exhale. Regardless, there were two instances in the book where I really found myself nodding along and I feel really odd about it! Gloria’s distaste for the casino seemed so much like my own. First, “Once she is inside, the smoke-filled air looks like smog and yet it doesn’t seem to be bothering anybody. It looks more like a geriatric convention than a casino” (pg. 234) and then, “There are no earsplitting jackpot squeals. No one seems to be laughing or smiling. There is no delight in this place. […] No one seems to be getting what they came here for” (pg. 235). Savannah discusses cruises on pg. 421. Let’s just say she isn’t a fan. I’m not either. We could be the same person with her complaints (except I didn’t get seasick). Both of these viewpoints, strong ones, reminded me of my own and I was grateful that the author found it to include them.

As I wrote earlier, I may not be inclined to pay brand new prices for this book, but I would definitely look for it at the secondhand store or the library. Good luck!

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