Getting to Happy Takes Work

BlogHer Review

Before Sex and the City fans strapped on stilettos and sipped on Cosmopolitans like the characters from the series, there was another girlfriend foursome women adored. Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria and Robin captivated readers in 1992 when Terry McMillan's novel Waiting to Exhale debuted. The story about these four, single women in their 30s was a literary phenomenon. McMillan gave the world an honest and fun look at black women, relationships and love. The ladies are back in the sequel Getting to Happy. They’re in their 50s, wiser about life, but the drama hasn’t stopped. Fans of the first book may be surprised at how the characters’ lives have changed. Bernadine pops prescription meds like they’re Skittles. Savannah’s marriage is rocky. Robin’s life is hardly rocking. She compensates a boring job and smart-mouthed teen with and shopping addiction. Life strikes a cruel blow to Gloria. Like the description of on the back of the book says, “[The characters have] exhaled; now they’re learning to breathe.”

I was 13 when the novel Waiting to Exhale was released. The characters’ relationship adventures taught me early on not to compromise my integrity, dreams and self-worth for a man. The women’s lives in Getting to Happy remind us that happiness takes work. It’s not given nor automatically earned. Happiness is something we have to hold on to during the rough times in life. The journey to happiness is different for us all. Bernadine needs to travel the road of forgiveness. Gloria’s road is acceptance and making peace. And the other two ladies have their own paths. McMillan conveys this message of happiness through strong storytelling. Many nights of promising myself to read just a few more pages, turned into my reading quite a few chapters. What I have always loved about McMillan’s writing is her use of dialogue. Her characters’ conversations read like ones I’ve had with people I know or have met. Sometimes they sound like me and my own girlfriends. The words evoke reaction. I caught myself tearing up and laughing while reading. A few times I said out loud, “She did not go there.” Or sometimes I nodded my head in agreement with a character.

My favorite line in the book is when Savannah says, “ …I’m tired of feeling navy blue when I have the right to feel lemon yellow.” Getting to Happy has its bluesy storylines, but McMillan balances the tone with splashes of colorful moments. Like all of her novels, there are “interesting” men throughout the book as well. Waiting to Exhale fans will remember some of the guys. The bond between Bernadine, Gloria, Robin and Savannah is what keeps the story bright and gives the characters hope. I love the book for showing women that life doesn’t stop when you reach 50. And don’t let life’s woes steal your joy. Breathe, exhale and stay on that path to happiness. Be thankful for the friends who are with you every step of the way.


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