Getting to Happy Made Me Melancholy [SPOILERS]
I was excited to read this sequel to the smash hit Waiting to Exhale. The best-selling book and block-buster movie was about 'the sisterhood' and supporting and uplifting your girls when their down. It felt good. You close the book or leave the theatre feeling hopeful for the character's futures.
But "the struggle" gets a bit tedious as Terry McMillan continues through the lives of Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria and Robin in Getting to Happy. The hopeful ending from the first book and movie are dashed, as Savannah faces a divorce, Bernadine marries and then hastily has it annulled, Gloria loses someone precious to her, and Robin still searches for a man.
This book is filled with just about every cliché about black women and the black community -- two people sell drugs and then go to jail, another person is killed accidentally in a drive-by shooting, most of the women are more educationally and financially successful than their black male counterparts -- but if you into that kind of stuff, well...
The issue I find most disturbing is how McMillan handles the issue of mental illness, anxiety and depression. Depression is trivialized in the book, and this part mirrors the general attitudes of most black folks who say "Depression is for white people. Go pray or something. You need Jesus." Bernadine struggles with what she and her friends perceive as an addiction to Xanax, Zoloft, and Ambien, when in real life, here doses are not abnormal or out of control. How do I know for sure? I have general anxiety disorder. I myself take these medications, because NOT taking them could cost me my physical health in the long run. In real life, black women are estimated to have a high incidence of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, because those afflictions are perceived as being "weak of mind."
But it's perfectly acceptable to eat the pain away like Savannah and Gloria do. Then, like the characters, are more than willing to take the medication to treat diabetes and high blood pressure when we choose food as a drug and think it's superior to taking Zoloft.
I also felt like the characters Savannah, Bernadine and Robin were under-developed, and McMillan's use of literary license to switch from first person to third person, depending on the character, was confusing and didn't allow her to show enough depth and complexity. Gloria, who is written in third person, is the about as close as she gets.
I really wanted to like Getting to Happy, but in this case, I'm hoping the upcoming movie turns out to be better than the book.
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