Review: Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan

who-asked-youFamily ties are tested and transformed in the new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author of Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back
With her wise, wry, and poignant novels of families and friendships—Waiting to Exhale, Getting to Happy, and A Day Late and a Dollar Short among them—Terry McMillan has touched millions of readers. Now, in her eighth novel, McMillan gives exuberant voice to characters who reveal how we live now—at least as lived in a racially diverse Los Angeles neighborhood.
Kaleidoscopic, fast-paced, and filled with McMillan’s inimitable humor, Who Asked You? opens as Trinetta leaves her two young sons with her mother, Betty Jean, and promptly disappears. BJ, a trademark McMillan heroine, already has her hands full dealing with her other adult children, two opinionated sisters, an ill husband, and her own postponed dreams—all while holding down a job delivering room service at a hotel. Her son Dexter is about to be paroled from prison; Quentin, the family success, can’t be bothered to lend a hand; and taking care of two lively grandsons is the last thing BJ thinks she needs. The drama unfolds through the perspectives of a rotating cast of characters, pitch-perfect, each playing a part, and full of surprises.
Who Asked You? casts an intimate look at the burdens and blessings of family and speaks to trusting your own judgment even when others don’t agree. McMillan’s signature voice and unforgettable characters bring universal issues to brilliant, vivid life.” – Publisher Summary

Terry McMillan has got it goin’  on. True, I may be a bit biased. After all, Terry has been one of my go-to girls for the last twenty years (oh, wait – does that age me?). With novel after novel, she has captured my attention and my heart. Now, with her most recent novel, Who Asked You?, McMillan has hit it out of the park once again.

Our story is narrated by a multitude of family members and close friends whose lives are all interconnected. While this is not a new or unique style of writing, what struck me as genius was the way McMillan used the first-person narration specifically from the several different characters that she portrayed. While I was unsure at first if this would work, I felt that the way she worked them together truly added an extra depth to the story. McMillan intuitively imbues the heart and soul into each individual character, and artfully weaves the narratives together, demonstrating the unique inner workings and dysfunction of families. As always, she is consistent in developing characters that are both flawed yet loveable at the same time, and for making each person jump out of the novel and become real to the reader. As The Washington Post says:

“[McMillan] has amassed her vast following via a cutting wit, a knack for capturing the way real people think and speak…”

Who Asked You? explores the various roles of family and the plethora of issues that bind them together. Many themes are at play here: social issues, family secrets, marital strife, guilt, loss, gender issues, death, but most importantly: second chances and redemption. The timeline of the novel covers a period of several years, and the plot is very well laid out, however, what moves at a slower pace in the beginning seems almost rushed toward the end. Ah, yes, the end – there was definitely a Pollyanna-esque light to the last pages of this tale. Not that I’m complaining – I’m a sucker for a happy ending, just as I’m a sucker for McMillan’s writing. Take my advice and pick this up – I’m confident you will agree with me.

Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan. Buy it, read it, love it.

3.5 out of 5

Source: Penguin Group/Viking {via NetGalley}

 

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