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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

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Overview

Las Vegas, 1994. The Prices are introduced by Viola, the family's matriarch: Her husband, Cecil, and their four adult kids, scattered across the country, seem determined to send her to her grave, or at least to the hospital with worrying. Paris is divorced, mother to a nearly seventeen-year-old son, a successful businesswoman and the one who always comes to everybody's rescue. Lewis is the scapegoat - his troubles keep landing him in jail, which only seems to confirm what his family thinks he is. Out in Chicago, ...
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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

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Overview

Las Vegas, 1994. The Prices are introduced by Viola, the family's matriarch: Her husband, Cecil, and their four adult kids, scattered across the country, seem determined to send her to her grave, or at least to the hospital with worrying. Paris is divorced, mother to a nearly seventeen-year-old son, a successful businesswoman and the one who always comes to everybody's rescue. Lewis is the scapegoat - his troubles keep landing him in jail, which only seems to confirm what his family thinks he is. Out in Chicago, Charlotte knows she's gotten the short en of the stick, has "nothing in common except blood" with her parents and siblings and would just as soon divorce them all. Janelle, the baby of the family, is not only on the defensive about the course of her own life and the man she's recently married but she's also facing a new crisis with her teenage daughter that threatens more than she's willing to admit.

With her hallmark exuberance and a cast of characters so sassy, resilient, and full of life that they breathe, dream, and shout right off the page, Terry McMillan has given a tour-de-force novel of family. Healing, and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Equal parts cultural phenom, literary trailblazer, and all-around righteous sister, Terry McMillan inspires hope and devotion, her novels -- including Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Disappearing Acts -- celebrated for their affirming vision of empowered women. A Day Late and a Dollar Short delivers this and more, exploring the Price family: matriarch Viola; daughters Paris, Janelle, and Charlotte; husband Cecil; and son Lewis. And as never before, McMillan's men give as good as they take, equal to their feisty, fast-talking feminine relations. The layered characterizations -- revealed through first-person chapters told individually by each family member -- imbue the novel with a rare dimensionality, as the same people and events are viewed from multiple perspectives. And more than the title allows, the Price family in McMillan's A Day Late and a Dollar Short discovers that forgiveness can offer powerful healing, even from beyond the grave.

Any man with a whiff of sense knows better than to express a critical opinion about the work of Terry McMillan in gender-mixed company. McMillan's legion of female readers fiercely protect her, unafraid to speak at length and at the drop of a hat about her gifts and her relevance. Male validation is unnecessary.

Sometimes that level of loyalty gets delightfully loud. Attending an Atlanta screening of the film version of Waiting to Exhale several years ago, I witnessed the largely female audience actively participating, peppering the on-screen dialogue with "Tell the truth!" and "Amen, sister!" Sunday morning church services blended with Friday night cineplex previews. At McMillan's bookstore appearances, too, women have been known to testify during the question-and-answer periods, joyously, tearfully remembering the discovery in McMillan's novels of women like themselves: strong and vulnerable, delicate and determined, flawed and fabulous.

In A Day Late and a Dollar Short, the four Price women are complicated and conflicted, seemingly unable to figure out ways to express their love for one another or the men in their lives without bumping up against family ghosts and assorted personal baggage. Intimacy remains illusory. Echoing the four female voices of Waiting to Exhale, the Price women face some familiar challenges, including health, finances, children, spouses, infidelity, and career options. But a departure awaits, as McMillan flexes her fictional muscles, including several strong male characters who boldly claim equal time.

Although McMillan has employed a male voice before in Disappearing Acts, where Franklin alternated with Zora to tell the tale, it always felt more like a woman's story. In A Day Late and a Dollar Short, family patriarch Cecil Price and his only son, Lewis, are equal to the task of getting a word in edgewise among all those fast-talking women. The male characters are as fully realized, as complex and as capable of growth and transformation, as any of the women.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short is, ultimately, about those transformations. It's about the healing power of family forgiveness, even when it comes to the wounds that go back to when Mama didn't love you enough or Daddy wasn't paying attention or your little sister got to ride in the front seat while you had to squeeze in the back. In McMillan's novel, those old hurts are batted back and forth among the characters so often that sometimes it is a struggle to see the whole picture and, therefore, the whole truth. In this, the reader's journey is similar to the one taken by the Price family itself, requiring us, like them, to take one step back for every two steps forward, but promising great rewards if we just commit.

When Viola's family gathers on Thanksgiving to share the letters she has written each one, absolving them of all crimes, real or imagined, the book signals a transition for McMillan, as well as for her characters. In A Day Late and a Dollar Short, she seems to have decided that forgiveness is preferable to harsher judgments, especially in matters of the heart. Where this kinder, gentler worldview will ultimately lead McMillan's female characters is still a mystery. For the moment, it seems enough that they can simply forgive, forget, and, finally, exhale.

Essence
A valentine to the power and beauty of black families and the indestructible bond that holds us together.
Newsday
...McMillian's assured and empathetic writing brings them so strongly to life...leap off the page...This book is a gift.
From The Critics
Undoubtedly, McMillan's finest novel to date...a delicious family saga...McMillan has an uncanny ability to render family conflict with both humor and compassion...a life-affirming read...a triumph.
Village Voice
McMillan's best book yet. She has a true comic gift.
New York Newsday
[A] slam dunk of a novel...this book is a gift.
People
Touching and funny.
Chicago Tribune
By the last pages you're weeping. You're laughing. You're hooked. It's oh-so-good.
Toronto Star
Nobody does it better.
Los Angeles Times
Undoubtedly, McMillan's finest novel to date...a delicious family saga...McMillan has an uncanny ability to render family conflict with both humor and compassion...a life-affirming read...a triumph.
From The Critics
McMillan's new novel is her first since the 1996 hit How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Here McMillan introduces a bevy of lively characters, including Viola Price, her estranged husband, Cecil, and their four adult children, Paris, Janelle, Charlotte and Lewis. In their own words, each family member provides a glimpse into his or her life and secrets, as well as the ways they see each other. The book starts out slowly, with an endless series of character sketches, but goes on to successfully weave the characters together into a picture of a fully formed family. The Prices struggle through their fair share of problems: Gambling, pill-popping and sister-envy are but a few. Yet their love for each other takes them through the toughest of times. In the hands of McMillan, the master of edgy, ensemble storytelling, this book, like Disappearing Acts and Waiting to Exhale, has drama and snap. Every time I put it down, I wanted to know what would happen next.
—Andrea King Collier

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Viola Price is the truth-telling, trash-talking Las Vegas matriarch at the center of McMillan's eagerly awaited new novel. As the book begins, Viola is in the hospital recovering from a devastating asthma attack, and she's decided to turn her life around, even if it means causing her large, unruly clan a little discomfort. Lewis, Viola's only son, is a drifter, handicapped both by his genius IQ and his alcoholism. Janelle, the youngest child, is perpetually searching for the perfect career, while ignoring signs that her 12-year-old daughter is in trouble. Viola's relationship with her perpetually angry middle daughter, Charlotte, is so volatile that Charlotte periodically hangs up in the middle of phone conversations, while Paris, Viola's eldest, appears to be brilliantly successful, but is actually desperately lonely and has developed a dependency on pills to maintain her superwoman act. To add to the confusion, Cecil, Viola's husband of 40 years, has moved in with his girlfriend, Brenda, a welfare mother pregnant with a child that may or may not be his. The story of how the family puts it back together is told from the perspective of all six main characters, and McMillan moves easily and skillfully from voice to voice. The characters are not entirely sympatheticDlike Viola, McMillan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) doesn't sugarcoat the truthDbut knowing their weaknesses does make their acts of courage all the more meaningful. This is a moving and true depiction of an American family, driven apart and bound together by the real stuff of life: love, loss, grief, infidelity, addiction, pregnancy, forgiveness and the IRS. (Jan. 15) Forecast: Gutsier and less glitzy than How Stella Got Her Groove Back, McMillan's latest has perhaps the broadest appeal of any of her novels. A major national advertising campaign, national publicity, a TV and radio satellite tour and a 12-city author tour will get the word out and drive the book toward the top of the charts. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Tate
McMillan seems to have stepped up her game, her literary funksmanship, with this book. Funny, finely crafted, profound, and pathos-ridden when it needs to be—breezy when it does not—A Day Late has my unlettered vote as her best book yet... is contemporary African American naturalism at its best.
Village Voice
Ruth Coughlin
Viola's feisty yet compassionate voice is the strongest here; she spits out her opinions about everything from the untrustworthiness of men to the allure and durability of Thomasville furniture. Five years after the publication of McMillan's last novel, it is good to see her back in top form. Her breezy yet detailed portrait of this wayward family is both moving and memorable. New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451204943
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/31/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 193,386
  • Product dimensions: 4.28 (w) x 6.72 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry McMillan is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of five previous novels and recipient of the Essence Award for Excellence in Literature.

Biography

Terry McMillan's previous novels include Mama (1987), (1989), and the New York Times bestsellers Waiting to Exhale (1992) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1996), both of which were awarded the NAACP/Black Image Award for Best Novel, and A Day Late and a Dollar Short (2001). McMillan's influential anthology of contemporary African American fiction, Breaking Ice, was published in 1990. Waiting to Exhale was made into a motion picture in 1995, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back came to the screen in 1998; in December of 2000, HBO released a film version of Disappearing Acts. Terry McMillan is the recipient of the 2002 Essence Award for Excellence in Literature. Her forthcoming novel is titled The Interruption of Everything. She lives in Northern California with her family.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Hometown:
      Danville, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 18, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Port Huron, Michigan
    1. Education:
      B.S. in journalism, UC-Berkeley, 1979; M.F.A. in film, Columbia University, 1980

Read an Excerpt

Can't nobody tell me nothing I don't already know. At least not when it comes to my kids. They all grown, but in a whole lotta ways they still act like children. I know I get on their nerves—but they get on mine, too—and they always accusing me of meddling in their business, but, hell I'm their mother. It's my job to meddle. What I really do is worry. About all four of 'em. Out loud. If I didn't love 'em, I wouldn't care two cents about what they did or be the least bit concerned about what happens to 'em. But I do. Most of the time they can't see what they doing, so I just tell 'em what I see. They don't listen to me half the time no way, but as their mother I've always felt that if I don't point out the things they doing that seem to be causing 'em problems, who will?

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Table of Contents


The Way I See It
Cold Keys
Clearing House Sweepstakes
Track
Nothing in Common Except Blood
Behind My Back
Every Shut Eye Ain't Closed
Hives
Hot Links
Fish Dreams
Ten Thousand Things
Liquid Jesus
Before I Pop
Bingo
Housecleaning
Hand After Hand
Throbbing
Credit
Cancer
Puff on That
Lucky Strikes
Burnt Toast
Refills
Sinners
A New Life
Why Am I Wearing My Mama's Shoes?
Sorry
Dreaming in Black and White
Two of Wands, or Hanged Man, Reversed
One Entrance to Another
Old Purses
Sock-It-to-Me Cake
What I'm Fighting For
Loosening the Knots
Help
Thanks
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 216 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(159)

4 Star

(35)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 216 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    ms. thang got one of the best styles in black literature

    A Day Late and A Dollar Short was my first Terry Mcmillan book and it was ALL THAT! She brings to the table a family known all to well to us: the daughters and the son don't communicate and the parents are on the edge of getting a divorce. The book opens with Viola, the mother, in a hospital for an asthma attack. The husband, Cecil, is with somebody else. The son (their only) is an alcoholic. The oldest and their first daughter, Paris, is a perfectionist. The second oldest, Charlotte, is the disrespectful daughter with a few problems of her own. The youngest, Janelle, is married to an older man. The family has a substratum of mistrust and unspoken secrets which contribute to the lack of communication. But it is in the mother that they all find their love for one another. Terry speaks as though it were her own family which gives me feel comfort reading the book--plus it's spoken in language you can understand.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Read

    This was a good book. I loved it. Every since I read the book, I use the phrase, "You are a day late and a dollar short." Definitely worth checking out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    Wonderful!

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2006

    There's Not Much A Dollar Can Fix Anyway

    Terri McMillan delivers the eventful, and dramatic story of a family whose family tree has much more meaning than realized. This story is broken down in the perspectives of six main characters and allows the readers to gain neutrally biased opinion of each experience this family endures. The moral of the story is valid and invaluable: there's not much a dollar can fix anyway. The message is delivered by way of heartache, headache, disease, discomfort, violation, loneliness and family love. And there's not a dollar bill in this world could make up for the voids in this family's season.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    I need bf

    I need a boyfriend

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2014

    not what I expected

    It started out well. By the end,it felt disjointed

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    Highly recommended

    I thoroughly enjoyed "A Day Late and a Dollar Short", Terry McMillan is one of my favorite authors!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Loved it

    This is a great read especially if you're looking for a break from TV and need a good story. I couldn't put this book down every page had me on edge wanting to know more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    Loved this book!

    One of my favorites from Terry McMillian.

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  • Posted May 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I loved this book!!!

    This book was great read. I just recently purchased it and it kept my attention. I was glued to this book, and I could'nt wait to see what the next chapter was bout until I finally finished the book. I loved it and I even cried a few times while reading it. Very well put together. I will recommend it to all my family members.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2008

    Great Book

    One of my favorite Terry McMillan books. You'll fall in love with the Price family and in A Day Late A Dollar Short, you'll go on their not so smooth journey. It's about life & family and it's very well written. You'll love it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2006

    Hilariously Funny

    I couldn't put the book down! From begining to end it is a page turner. Although based on an African American family, I saw my own family within the Price family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2006

    GOOD BOOK!!!

    this was a pretty good book! i read it in about a week and a half...i loved the ending! the mother kinda held the family together and it was like everyone realized that at the end...my favorite character was paris she was the oldest of viola's(the mother) children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    Terry Keeps it moving

    I was drawn right in as usual with her style of telling it like it is. Very emtional. She is a champion author. No one does it better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2005

    Definitely one of my favorite...I loved it!!!!

    I totally loved this book. I laughed, I cried. It was written with emotional power. Congrats to Terri because I'm acquiring her latest book this week for sure. She is definitely one of my favorite authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    Okay, just too many stories in one setting

    I got this book on tape from my local library and it took me three days to listen to all of it. There were too many stories going on to keep it interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2005

    Have loved every one of her books!!

    A total page turner! I have enjoyed reading every one of her books and am always awaiting the new releases. Her description is amazing, making you feel like you are right there living the story that she is telling. I enjoy how she can bounce back and forth with so many different people but at the same time keep it flowing so smoothly. If you have never read anything by Terry you are truely missing out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2005

    Family First

    This book is great. Instead of having one person tell the whole story, Terry McMillan allows all of the major characters to tell the story. The mother begins telling the story. She then describes her (family) husband, children, and grandchildren in a way that only a mother, wife, and grandmother can. It was downright hilarious. To my surprise,however, the husband and children tell their opinions on the family and themselves. When you see how the family sees a person as opposed to how the person sees themselves you begin to think about some of the attitudes you have towards members of your own family. The beginning of the book will have you cracking up and by the end you will be in tears. My boyfriend had to read the last chapter to me because I was crying too hard to complete it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2005

    A Mother's LOVE

    Viola wasn't able to express to her children the unconditional love she felt nor understanding. It took her departure to let everyone know she loved them all. The book hit me straight in the heart, I truly related! Terry keeps it real

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    Never Put Off Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Today

    Terry McMillan has continued in her down-to-earth style to which every African-American family can relate. She incorporates themes of the good, the bad, and the stressful. And, of course, she continues to explore the close, and often painful, relationships between mothers and daughters. She also issues a reminder that we should live for today. Enjoy life and take pleasure in our familial ties while our loved ones are still with us. To say we're sorry when we're wrong and to forgive each other rather than bear long, hurtful grudges. All in all, it was a fast read. Always interesting. Great book, if you like her other novels.

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