Happy About Getting to Happy

BlogHer Review

Am I a woman of a certain age now? Because when Terry McMillan's bestseller Waiting to Exhale came out (in 1992), I was just about the same age as the characters (Bernadine, Gloria, Savannah and Robin). Now that the long-awaited sequel, Getting to Happy is finally here... the women and I are all pushing 50. How did that happen? Can someone please give me an explanation? Now? Please?

I am happy to report that this sequel -- set about 15 years down the road -- is just as fun, provocative and gripping as the first book. It was well worth the wait. This is a book for women readers of all ages, not just middle-age. (Guys might want to read it too, and pick up some helpful hints.)

No spoilers in this review, even though I would love to gab. Let's just say... McMillan knows how to tell a story, she knows how to write, and she knows her characters. I've never been to Phoenix, Ariz. (where both book are set) but it really is its own, believable character in the novels. You get a feel for what the social scene is like there, what the climate is like (politically and weather-wise) and become privy to the pro's and the con's for our African-American heroines, who are living, loving, raising kids and grandkids and working in a primarily white state. (Although 2010 data shows that Arizona is now about one-third Hispanic/Latino, compared to one-quarter in 2000.)

McMillan writes skillfully about betrayal, love, joy, death, health -- all of the ups and downs that women, including Savannah, Robin, Bernadine and Gloria -- face in their daily lives. The love scenes are good, they ring true, and the sex scenes? Sexy. So let's just pause for a moment and give thanks for that. It's not as easy as it looks, people, writing a good sex scene that doesn't veer into porno. I want erotica when I read, not porno.

McMillan also takes on drug addictions, porno (not sexy) and parenting issues. The kids in this book aren't just supporting characters. Onika and John Jr., Bernadine's kids, are in college now; their half-sister, Taylor, is fourteen-going-on-thirty; Sparrow, Robin's teenage daughter, is trying to get her driver's license; and Tarik is now married and in his early 30s. That's another thing that makes it a multi-generational book. I was also happy to hear more from Savannah's mom, who is still a funny-as-hell and wicked sharp character.

Receiving a review copy of Getting to Happy gave me an excuse to re-read Waiting to Exhale. Even though it sounds like McMillan wasn't crazy about the film version (although she was one of the script's writers), I loved it as much as the book. I know there are a lot of other fans out there, too. Book and movie have both stood the test of time. Even if you haven't read the first book, though, the sequel does stand alone. McMillan gives enough backstory (but not too much) to keep the reader in the loop. I hope they make a film of the sequel, too.

I don't have any secrets about how one "gets to happy," but I do know that reading this book made this woman very, very happy.

Bon appetit!

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