Getting To Happy by Terry McMillan

I wasn’t expecting a sequel to Waiting Exhale. Apparently neither was Terry McMillan. “All four of them got on my last nerve long after their shelf life,” she admits in the Author’s Note.

Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest

But 15 years after Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria and Robin finally exhaled around that camp-fire, they’re back. Alas, the years have not been kind to them. Their money’s funny, work is unsatisfying and love has made a fool of them all. If Helena Andrews’ Bitch is the New Black suggested black love was tricky in your 20s, Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest as they’re likely to have more success hunting down the Holy Grail.

The book isn’t a difficult read. McMillan’s energetic, stream-of-consciousness translates into pages that practically turn themselves. But there’s a bitter edge that permeates too much of the novel. If somebody founded an anti-romance movement Getting to Happy would fit like a glove; four women and a string of failed relationships exemplifying the many ways love can end badly.

When I recall how the dreamy optimism of How Stella Got Her Groove Back mirrored McMillan’s personal love life at the time, it’s impossible to separate the anger, regret and disappointment that colour this book from her subsequent divorce. I can only hope that as art is clearly imitating life, Getting to Happy acts as a necessary exorcism and McMillan is able to move on, back to the stories of fortitude and promise we love her for.

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