Getting to Happy
by Terry McMillan


Viking (Penguin Group), 2010. ISBN 978-0-670-02204-5.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 09/15/2010

Fiction: Multi-Cultural; Fiction: Mainstream

They say that getting there is half the fun. Savannah, Bernadine, Robin, and Gloria, the joint protagonists of this book might not agree. There are some fun times, yes, but these friends are finding rough going as each pursues her own quest. These women first appeared fifteen years ago in Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. Now still friends, each has in a piece of fictional serendipity reached a turning point in her life—a time for new beginning and new focus while bringing along all the paraphernalia of the past.

When I first met these four in Exhale, I related to them all. I felt almost as if I were a fifth, not very talkative, member of the group, Therefore, I approached this book with the same apprehension I felt before a class reunion. Would I remember them? Would I still be interested? Would I even care?

Yes, to all three questions. McMillan does a fine job in the first four chapters of bringing the forgetful, or even the new, reader up to speed on who these women are, what lurks in their pasts, and what is going on in their lives in 2005, when the story takes place. Plenty is going on. Savannah and Gloria both find themselves suddenly and unwantedly single, Robin has her hands full with daughter Sparrow's escapades, while Bernadette is overcoming or not overcoming a devastating betrayal from years before. She can't let it go.

As each woman struggles with her own trauma the friendships between them and the spirit of the group also undergo strains and testing. They all survive, or, at least it looks like they will. The resolutions are not always the ones dreamed of or wished for. But that's life—in reality and fiction. Each, if not arriving at "happy," is still on the road and a little farther down it.

On the surface, this is a book about four African American women living in Phoenix and coming to terms with their fifties. Deeper, this is a book about women—one that all women, especially those past or approaching the half-century mark, will appreciate, relate to and enjoy (at least parts of it!). This Anglo woman in Houston certainly did. She hopes it won't be another fifteen years before her next reunion with her four friends.


Michigan-born Terry McMillan has a degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. From early on, she says, she felt "compelled to employ words at tools of change." The author of many books, mostly focusing on women and their problems, challenges, and successes, she is best know as the author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back (written in thirty frantic days and later a hit movie), and Waiting to Exhale. Her website tells more about her, her personal life, and her views and advice on the writing life.

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