“Getting to Happy” Book Review

Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan is the squeal to McMillan’s blockbuster novel and subsequent film, Waiting to Exhale. McMillan continues the story of four African-American best friends living in Arizona as they navigate the ups and downs of their romantic relationships. Yet, despite the turmoil in their careers and relationships, what remains constant is their undying loyalty to their friends. Set in 2005, we meet up again with Savannah Jackson, Robin Stokes, Gloria Matthews-King, and Bernadine Harris-Wheeler in their early 50’s.
What I always notice while reading McMillan’s novels are the errors. For example, Savannah mentions flying to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention in 2004 to see the young senator Barack Obama give a historic speech (p. 7). However, the Democratic National Convention occurred in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2004. A quick online search to verify the location would have saved McMillan from making this glaring error. In addition to her love affair with run-on sentences, I found myself being taken out of the story several times.
The novel also lacks subtly. Soon after, Bernadine’s daughter, Onika, mentions that her “girlfriend” is visiting from college. I was not surprised when Onika came out of the closet later in the book. In the next chapter, Gloria happily waits for her husband to come home to celebrate their anniversary. Early on, things would not go the way Gloria planned. None of these moments packed an ounce of suspense, and often I rolled my eyes, wishing the novel dug a little deeper. The only surprise was Savannah’s husband’s addiction to porn and Bernadine’s husband’s double life on the east coast.
What McMillan lacks in subtly and good editing she makes up for in snappy dialogue and insightful character reflection. Her characters come to life on the page, and if Whitney Houston had not passed away suddenly in February 2012, there is no doubt in my mind that Getting to Happy would have made it to the big screen as well. The characters feel like women you know and their vulnerability makes them approachable as subjects. I was near tears when reading about Bernadine’s betrayal at the hands of her partner, having recently had a similar experience. The losses are vivid, whether they come from a significant other, career, or self-esteem. Despite its many weaknesses, “Getting to Happy” is entertaining and reminds readers of the importance of true friendship.

5 thoughts on ““Getting to Happy” Book Review

      1. What did you think of it? I’ve read her other novels, like “Mama” and “Disappearing Act” both of which are much better than “Waiting to Exhale”
        and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” I often wondered why those two books became popular in the mainstream versus her better written and more emotionally powerful previous novels.

      2. I think I liked it…? I think it was OK. I read the books (I just checked – I have read ‘Waiting to Exhale’ too). They did not stand out particularly to me. I think I was more interested in the story and the characters than the style of writing. I think I read those books over 10 years ago. I will have to add those other books to my list.

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