three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
49-Nov-Dec-2010
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0

A-Getting to HappyTerry McMillan's novels include How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) and Waiting to Exhale (1992), both of which have been made into hit films, as well as The Interruption to Everything ( 3 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005). In this sequel to Waiting to Exhale, a breakout in contemporary black chick lit, four friends continue to navigate life's ups and downs.

The Story: Fifteen years have passed since Savannah, Robin, Bernie, and Gloria celebrated their independence and self-esteem in Phoenix in the late 1980s in Waiting to Exhale. Now, the four middle-aged friends have a whole new set of problems to overcome. Savannah has serious doubts about her husband, whose online pornography habit threatens to destroy their marriage. Single mom Robin grapples with finding romance in the world of online dating. Bernie, in a haze of prescription medication, obsesses over her failed business and disastrous relationships. And Gloria struggles to overcome a terrible personal tragedy.
Viking. 375 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9780670022045

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Getting to Happy again hits a chord that will resonate with readers. ... McMillan does a[n] excellent job of aging her characters, remaining true to the personalities she created without making them look ridiculous." Denise I. O'Neal

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]here's an integrity that isn't compromised here. McMillan clearly respects her characters and her readers, too." Lisa Page

Dallas Morning News 3 of 5 Stars
"Still in a struggle to make sense of life and relationships, the women are older, a bit wiser and in the process of discovering that happiness isn't permanent. ... Although the writing, delivered in girlfriend parlance, is at times as predictable as the plotline, McMillan fans won't be disappointed." Karen M. Thomas

Miami Herald 3 of 5 Stars
"Some of the dialogue is stilted and preachy, and sometimes the protagonists are more defined by their problems (say, Robin's shopaholic tendencies) than actual traits. ... Still, the male characters are slightly more fleshed out (or at least less predictably unreliable), and the girlfriends' arguments about life are a blast." Connie Ogle

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"[I]t's not happy reading. ... Raw and cutting, the book mirrors the everyday life of real folk, revealing how scary it can be to look hard at another's actions in order to repair broken hearts and spirits." Melissa Walker

Critical Summary

For McMillan fans (and they are legion, given the immense popularity of her novels and film adaptations), the publication of Getting to Happy will be welcome news. The novel is full of the juicy romantic entanglements, family dysfunction, and high drama that readers have come to anticipate. The novel is not without its shortcomings; most critics noted the occasional clunky writing and predictable plot line. After all, McMillan's characters are the same as before--older and heavier, perhaps, but not necessarily happier or wiser. Still, the novel is entertaining, escapist fare, and "Getting to Happy is pretty much required reading for anyone who cared about Waiting to Exhale" (Miami Herald).