How Stella Got Her Groove Back

( 37 )

Overview

Stella Payne is forty-two, divorced, a high-powered investment analyst, mother of eleven-year-old Quincy - and she does it all. In fact, if she doesn't do it, it doesn't get done, from Little League carpool duty to analyzing portfolios to folding the laundry and bringing home the bacon. She does it all well, too, if her chic house, personal trainer, BMW and her loving son are any indication. So what if there's been no one to share her bed with lately, let alone rock her world? Stella doesn't mind too much; she ...
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Overview

Stella Payne is forty-two, divorced, a high-powered investment analyst, mother of eleven-year-old Quincy - and she does it all. In fact, if she doesn't do it, it doesn't get done, from Little League carpool duty to analyzing portfolios to folding the laundry and bringing home the bacon. She does it all well, too, if her chic house, personal trainer, BMW and her loving son are any indication. So what if there's been no one to share her bed with lately, let alone rock her world? Stella doesn't mind too much; she probably wouldn't have the energy for love - and all of love's nasty fallout - anyway. But when Stella takes a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Jamaica, her world gets rocked to the core not just by the relaxing effects of sun and sea and an island full of attractive men, but by one man in particular. He's tall, lean, soft-spoken, Jamaican, smells of citrus and the ocean - and is half her age. The tropics have cast their spell and Stella soon realizes she has come to a cataclysmic juncture: not only must she confront her hopes and fears about love, she must question all of her expectations, passions, and ideas about life and the way she has lived it.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
Irreverent, mishievous, diverting.
Mademoiselle
Rich in detail...leaves you feeling like you've just had a good gossip with your best girlfriend.
New York Newsday
So much fun in so many ways...a down-and-dirty, romantic and brave story told to you by this smart, good-hearted woman as if she were your best friend or your sister.
Liesl Schillinger
Terry McMillan is the only novelist I have ever read... who makes me glad to be a woman.
— (Washington Post Book World)
Orlando Sentinel
A liberating love story...tells women it's okay to let go, follow your heart, take a chance and fall in love, even if that love comes from a place you'd least expect.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Her readers may be surprised that, after the gritty, tell-it-as-it-is Mama and Waiting to Exhale, McMillan has now written a fairy tale. Her "forty-fucking-two-year-old'' heroine, divorce Stella Payne, possesses a luxurious house and pool in northern California, a lucrative job as a security analyst, a BMW and a truck, a personal trainer and an adorable 11-year- old son-but no steady guy. On a whim, Stella decides to vacation in Jamaica, and she narrates the ensuing events in a revved-up voice, naked of punctuation, that alternates between high-voltage energy and erotic languor. Romance comes to Stella under tropical skies-but there's a problem. Gorgeous, seductive Winston, the chef-trainee with whom she enjoys passionate sex explicitly detailed, is shockingly young: he's not quite 21. Naturally, Stella wonders if he really loves her; endless soul-searching and a few tepid complications occupy the remainder of the narrative. When Stella loses her job, it's no sweat; she has enough savings to maintain her lifestyle. When fate throws two other gorgeous men her way, she immediately decides they are boring and isn't tempted for a minute. Meanwhile, her intense preoccupation with feminine deodorant sprays and the smell of women's public bathrooms is rather strange, to say the least. McMillan's expletive-strewn narrative accommodates such musings, however, and readers who have been yearning for a Judith Krantz of the black bourgeoisie-albeit one with a dirty mouth and a more ebullient spirit-will be pleased with this fantasy of sexual fulfillment. 100,000 first printing; major ad/ promo; first serial rights to People and Essence; BOMC main selection; film rights to 20th Century Fox; author tour. May
Library Journal
Stella, the star of McMillan's (Waiting To Exhale, Viking, 1992) new novel, finds love in an unexpected place. The first printing is 750,000 copies.
Kirkus Reviews
McMillan takes it easy with this tossed-together tale of a 42-year-old black, female professional who falls for a young Jamaican cook. The love story provides a suitable frame for the author's trademark charm and credible sense of black middle-class values, but sloppy prose and a single, rather solitary protagonist fail to give readers the synergistic magic of the earlier book.

Stella Payne has it all—a charming 11-year-old son, a beautiful house north of San Francisco, and a high-paying job as a financial systems analyst. So why isn't she happy? For three years—since her divorce from the man who talked her into abandoning her art-furniture business in favor of a more lucrative career—Stella has had no serious love interest in her life. When her son, Quincy, flies off to visit his father, workaholic Stella spontaneously signs up for nine days alone at a resort in Jamaica. The last thing she expects to find is an unquenchable passion for a 20-year-old chef's assistant; on her return home, she discovers that she can't quite relegate her happy thoughts of Winston Shakespeare to the vacation-fling portion of her memory bank. So Stella arranges for Winston to visit her in San Francisco—where the easygoing boy charms her son, her sisters, and her friends, and even talks Stella into dumping the stock exchange and returning to her artist's life. Despite Stella's repeated protests that Winston must be out of his mind, there are few serious barriers to this MayOctober love affair.

Long, run-on, train-of-consciousness sentences give the impression less of the characters' mental states than of a hastily written novel. One hopes McMillan will follow her heroine's example and slow down a little on her next book.

From Barnes & Noble
When a successful, self-sufficient woman vacations in Jamaica, she is swept away by the relaxing effects of sun, sea, & an island full of attractive men, & by the attentions of one man in particular--handsome, charming, & half her age.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451209146
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/6/2004
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 546,930
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.91 (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

Chapter One

I hadn't planned on going anywhere. All I knew was that as much as I loved my son, I was glad to see him disappear after those doors to Gate 3 closed this morning. Quincy's on his way to Colorado Springs to visit his daddy and now I have the house all to myself. Finally, some peace and quiet. And three whole weeks of it. Of course there are a million things I want to do and now I can do them without being distracted. Without hearing "Mom, can I ... ?!" every fifteen seconds.

    Thank God it's Saturday. And thank God it's summertime. School's out. No more three-day-a-week Little League practice (rain or shine) or those long-ass games. No week-on/week-off revolving carpooling and forgetting it's my week and being afraid to call the parents of the abandoned children who are all standing in the rain for an hour after I forgot them because they are all--including my own son--too dumb to call somebody else. And thank the Lord there's nowhere I have to be: no can't-wait portfolios to review and I don't have to pay attention to any of the four computers in my office, I mean I can actually be off-line for a change and I have no meetings no planes to catch, nada.

    I've got about a hundred books I've been meaning to read since last year and I figure now I can probably read them all. I've got a house full of trees and straggly vines that need to be transplanted which is what I'm planning to do today but of course when I go out to the garage I have no big pots and just a drop of potting soil and not a single pair of those gloves with the little rubber dots on the fingertips, all of which means I have to go to Home Depot. I hate going to Home Depot because I always end up going down the plant rug toilet or sink aisles when I have enough plants rugs toilets and sinks already. But by the time I get to the checkout I usually have to exchange my cart for one of those flatbed numbers and then I realize I didn't drive the truck so I have to have them put my stuff to the side until I come back and as I'm driving home it occurs to me that they're probably going to switch some of my merchandise and not think I'll notice but by the time I pull the truck up to their automatic doors I'm usually totally pissed at myself for buying all this shit I don't need because despite the fact that I am not a landscaper handywoman or carpenter I have all these useful new tools with which to express my fantasies of do-it-yourselfness and what is really bothering me is that I have most likely spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand bucks which seems to be my going rate here and at Costco and which is also why I am right this minute changing my mind about going today. I'll go tomorrow. With a list and the promise to buy only what's on it.

    I look around the house and realize that the housekeeper does a pretty good job--for a sixty-one-year-old Peruvian man--of keeping it clean. He fixes everything that breaks around here, and since he is ultrareligious and I think maybe even a participating Buddhist, out of respect I sort of watch my mouth in my own home. He cleans under and behind everything which is the main reason I have no Saturday morning cleaning to do. I believe from the bottom of my heart that dusting polishing and vacuuming are entirely too tedious never-ending and boring tasks and there are so many other things I would rather be doing which is why I hired Paco in the first place. He is worth the money.

    I open all the blinds and notice that the windows are pretty grungy-looking from all the rain we've had here this past spring. Flooding and mud slides wiped out hundreds of homes all over northern California and I felt lucky to be way out here in this boring little valley. I don't do windows which is why I make a mental note to call Of Course We Do Windows first thing on Monday. Paco tried doing them once but he couldn't get up high outside and if he fell and hurt himself I would feel terrible.

    I go into the kitchen and make myself a latte and as I stare out into the backyard the first thing I see is Phoenix, our free-from-the-pound chocolate Lab, swimming in our black-bottom pool as if it's his. Then I look over at what is now a storage shed that I was told was once a guesthouse and then I turned it into a studio but of course that was when I used to be this creative person and I had energy and a thriving spirit and I would design and conceive and sometimes actually manufacture what I used to call functional sculpture aka handcrafted furniture that people in fact solicited and paid me real money to make for them out of everything from aluminum copper steel wood whatever, but then it became so hard to like pay the rent and then this husband I ended up saying yes to when I should've just said no convinced me that I could use that MBA I got and like combine it with that MFA I also had which of course all by itself was worthless and who could afford this eccentric one-of-a-kind so-called furniture when a normal person could like just go to Thomasville or Levitz or Ikea and of course I didn't know how to mix commerce with art and so I failed at working with my hands. I went with the brain and forged figures inside my economic head and did the total business beat. I have been doing this now for like hell I don't even know how many years but it is another reason why right this minute, looking out at the dog at that clear black water at the little salmon-colored bungalow where I used to pray and dream and invent, I am getting a sudden overwhelming urge to run the vacuum through my mental house and chill out, sit down long enough to smell the cosmos the zinnias the coral bells hell the fucking coffee (which I actually can smell right now), so when Quincy comes home I'll be more poised balanced composed than I've been in years. The generic term for it is relaxed. Maybe I can even acquire some of that stuff commonly known as patience that I haven't had in a long time. I'd like to be able to sit down next to my son and watch one of those moronic TV shows that he's always begging me to watch but after a few minutes I always find myself jumping up to do something during the commercials and I repeat this up-and-down business at least five times during a mere half-hour show which means I'm not exactly setting a good example for someone who's always telling her child how he needs to learn to sit still long enough to give something his undivided attention. All I do when I get up is move things. Dishes go in the dishwasher. Or they come out. Never-read magazines newspapers and last week's mail are tossed into the compactor for crushing. Clothes pulled out of the washer get pushed into the dryer. Now let's fold. Make stacks. Everything has to be in its place. Because if I don't do it, it won't get done.

    But I'm tired of jumping up. Tired of running. I would like to be able to just sit there with my son without moving without wishing I were somewhere else doing something else without thinking about something else and I'd like to just hold his hand or put my arm around his narrow shoulders because I know in a few more years he won't want me to sit on the couch with him and watch anything and he probably won't want me to touch him.

    I walk from the kitchen into the family room and sit on the red leather love seat and I look around and see all this color all these different textures--those golden maple floors those celery concrete floors these purple plastered walls that teal suede sofa that black oak pool table that eggplant leather floor in my office and this silver slate under my feet--and I am proud that over the years I have made my funky little California castle suitable to my needs my tastes and I have rigged equipped and outfitted it in such an unorthodox way that it might actually be impossible to sell even though I am not even thinking of moving anywhere but for some reason today like right this minute I am feeling imposed upon by all of it as if I went too far and now all this color all these juxtaposing textures are backfiring instead of soothing as they always have even until just yesterday but not today and as I sit here and watch Phoenix shaking himself dry, I decide that today maybe I should shake myself up a little too.

    But how? And where do you start? I look down at the coffee table and notice Quincy forgot the stationery I bought him so he could write to me and his homies while he's away. Maybe I should write a few long-overdue letters or something to some folks. That's it! Yeah, I'll write to a few long-lost relatives and to some folks I haven't seen or talked to in ages. Just little notes. Some maybe-you-think- I've-forgotten-you-but-here's-a-gesture-to-let-you-know-I-haven't notes. Hell, I remember when I used to write tons of letters. Now who has time to even call anymore? A lot of times when I do call I'm secretly hoping the person won't be home and that I'll get the answering machine because I know there's something else I could or should be doing that's a helluva lot more productive like washing clothes or doing something in the kitchen but the portable phone is too staticky in the laundry room and kitchen which means I have to stand in one place and talk which is why it's so much easier to leave a two-minute message (if they've got a decent machine) than it is to talk for a half hour or longer, depending on where they fall in your chart of closeness, trying to cover what has happened to you both over the last week month year or two.

    I know I'm not alone because I'm forever getting messages from estranged friends and relatives who are pissed because I haven't returned their phone calls from whenever and they say things like, "Girl, I could be dead and you wouldn't know it what kind of fucking friend are you Stella we used to be close did I do something that I don't know about" and I shake my head no or they say we just had a baby or I finally got my divorce and I just wanted you to know that I don't live in Atlanta or Memphis or Los Angeles anymore, and oh by the way, I've got a brand-new grandbaby and did you get the pictures if you did you didn't say nothing about how cute he is and hell, he's got three teeth now or he's walking or in kindergarten and this is the MCI operator with a collect call from BENNIE please press one if you accept and two if you decline and sir the party's not at home and he says okay but can I leave a message anyway and then there is a click and he is just one of my many relatives who call from the penitentiary but then there's hey yeah Stella this is your cousin Rafiki As-Salaam-Alaikum my sister peace be unto you all praises are due to Allah and hey I know you surprised I ain't calling collect but my lady let me use her calling card for a month and you still ain't sent me no pictures of you and I'm still working on my own defense and I was wondering if you could send me fity dollars for some toiletries and such cause my mama ain't been up to see me in over six months she mad at me and my lady ain't got no mo transpo to get way out here and I been in the hole for the past month for something I ain't even did but it's all good and anyway let me know if you can do that and baby, this is your aunt Junie calling and I don't know if you know it or not but Miss Willamae's in the hospital and I know you remember her cause she used to baby-sit you when you was a baby and you know she got cataracts and she had to have that operation finally that she been putting off because of her having all them insurance problems and everythang but you remember her she's Miss Bessie's cousin's sister from her first marriage to Silbert what used to live on the corner of Moak and Fortieth Street, right down the street from Ms. Lucy when she was living and anyway you went to school with her granddaughter but I can't remember her name right now but pray for her even though she's doing much better now and I just wanted to touch base don't get to talk to you much no more and how is Quincy these days? I bet he's tall as you and how old is he now (there is a long pause because she's waiting for an answer) and like a fool I say, "He's eleven and a half, Aunt Junie," but even though you don't stay in touch I want you to know that you both are in my prayers and the Lord is watching over you and I'm gon' call your sisters as soon as I hang up since the rates is low. Love you, baby. I wonder if her machine is gon' get all this and Stella? Did you get this whole message, sugar?

    I also don't get very many letters either--maybe five or six a year and that's counting the preaddressed prestamped envelopes I give Quincy when he's away at camp--and shoot, I know at least a thousand people and at least five hundred of them live more than five hundred miles away. Far enough away to write.

    It just feels like nothing is the way it used to be anymore and it's not that I'm on some nostalgic trip or anything but I just wonder if I'm feeling like this because I can't believe I'm really forty-fucking-two years old because people tell me all the time I don't look forty-two and to be honest I don't have any immediate plans of really acquiring the look if there is a way to look when you're forty-two and I certainly don't feel forty-two even though I don't know how I'm supposed to feel being forty-two and what I do know is that I'm not angry about being forty-two but it feels like I'm slowly but surely catching up to my mama because she was only forty-two when she died and I'm thinking how is this possible that I could ever be the same age as mama? I wonder if I could secretly be having a midlife crisis?

    Ever since Walter and I split up I guess I have been a little numb. I don't dislike him or hate him for being who he is but I certainly stopped loving him because of it. He bored me to death. Living with him was like living in a museum. It was drafty, full of vast open spaces and slippery floors. He wasn't a bad person, but I just didn't care for his attitudes and later on his principles turned out to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from mine. He wanted me to be just like him. I wanted him to respect our differences. I ended up telling him that he should've married himself, and later that he should try fucking himself. And this is what we basically argued about. Who we were. We never seemed to come to any neutral turf where both of our feelings and positions were acceptable or at least tolerable. We sort of kept this demerit scoreboard for the last eight years, until we ran out of space. He and I both knew that our time was up, so we didn't make a big tadoo about it, we just agreed to stop this before we ended up hating each other.

    We were both running on high octane and barely had time for sex anymore and when we did we were both so exhausted the thought of actually being tender and sensuous and playful was not something that even crossed our minds. Or hearts. We just did it to get off, to relieve some of the tension. Some of the stresses and strains of the day that we brought home with us. At times I felt like his prostitute and I'm sure on occasion he probably felt that way too. It got old. And after a few years of this, I started wondering if I'd ever feel any excitement or passion toward him or any man again, and now that it's been a few years since our divorce, I'm pretty much feeling the same way.

    Nobody has rocked my world, as the saying goes. Nobody has made my heart flutter like it did when I first met Walter, or even when I fell in love with Chad, and I don't dare go all the way back to high school or college when the world stopped spinning when Nathaniel kissed me. All Dennis did was smile at me and I was like Elvis: all shook up. I didn't know the power of love was so powerful. But I liked it. Liked feeling like I was full of clouds. Like I could probably run a marathon without ever training for it. Like I was "on" something that was causing me to have a continuous flow of energy, making me feel excited about and see beauty in just about everything. I could walk down the street and feel myself grinning and people would look at me and simply grin too. This is when I thought I understood what God intended for us to feel.

    But then the bullshit always had to enter the picture and contaminate everything that had been so beautiful. Like where were you and why do you have to do that all the time and how come and when are you and I don't really give a flying fuck if you do but because I felt like it and if you can't handle it tough shit but as much as I wish I could I can't even begin to imagine but just the thought of you don't no not anymore but we could if you weren't so damn stubborn because hell I can't help it if I was and yes you are trying to change me into something that I'm not and want to see how long I can resist this shit want to watch me repel and don't remind me how much we used to have that's the past and it's gone baby live in the here and now and check it out this is getting too thick for me and I'm like sinking somewhere low and my heart weighs a ton here lately and as a matter of fact the mere sight of you being in your presence for any length of time depresses the hell out of me and I don't need this shit who needs this shit so I'm like out of here.

    All I know is that I was sort of already using my reserve tank when he left and afterwards being alone took some getting used to. A person can get on your last nerve, drive you to drink, but you still kind of miss their sorry ass after they're gone is what I found out. That empty space he left sort of turned into an ache for a minute, or I should say a few months, maybe even a year. It was like this secret longing I felt to replace the void he left with something or someone else. Only I didn't have the energy. Quincy took up a different kind of space, required a different kind of love. It wasn't until a year and a half ago that I realized I had not felt the warmth of a man's body next to mine, that my lips hadn't trembled, that my breasts hadn't throbbed or between my legs hadn't been wet from anybody's hands except my own, and it made me sad, but I didn't know what to do about it. I was waiting for him to knock on the front door, I guess, and just say, Here I am. Your worries are over, baby. I'm here. But there has been no knock. I haven't even bumped into him. Haven't seen him. Haven't walked past him in an airport and felt any current radiate from his body to mine. Not at all. Not anything close.

    But it's okay. Because all I know is that marriage wears you out and I'm not sure if I have the energy left for it. All my married friends are mostly miserable. They're just in it because. They started it. Those kids. The money would be all fucked up. Lifestyles would change. Alimony. Child support. And that fucking mortgage and all those cars and visitation and fuck it, let's just stick it out. Some of them don't even sleep together. Some of the men--a lot of the men--are into serious affairs but unfortunately the chicks on the side don't have a clue that most of them have no intention of leaving. The men just need a reprieve. Want to break up the monotony. Smell somebody new. In some cases it's the only way their dicks can get hard and blast off anymore and hell to them it's worth it.

    Which is why I have pretty much come to the conclusion that marriage itself is a dead-end institution. I'm not doing it again. All I want is a little companionship. No ring. No "I do till death do us part," because I said that once and we're both still very much alive. Folks expect too much from one another and when you don't won't or can't deliver you fall short and eventually begin to piss the other person off and years go by and the two of you simply tolerate each other. I wasn't born to live like this, and especially with a man. I know God didn't have some master plan where we were supposed to fall in love and then work our asses off to make it work and then it doesn't and then we end up feeling worse longer than we felt good. There's something inherently wrong with this whole notion. It seems like everybody is striving for perfection. The perfect fucking spouse who will make you feel perfect. But I know for a fact that no such person exists. I know for a fact that I am far from perfect, but there have been many instances where I didn't believe that. I fought hard for the right to be right. All I was doing was trying to preserve my right to my own self-image, but I'm here to be whoever I am and if I happen to be a little fucked up then accept me fucked up as I am or leave me the fuck alone. Because if there's ever going to be a change in my behavior or my personality I will do it myself and I don't need you nagging me telling me how fucked up I am because you know what? you're pretty fucked up too.

    I don't know how long it's going to take for me not only to fill back up again but to get my engine started. I've been divorced now for almost three years and haven't been on a legitimate date in almost a year even though I have a number to call when I just have to have some even though it's not passionate but purely maintenance-oriented sex and I thank God he's married because I wouldn't want him any other way and these last few months have been tough because he's turned into such a lazy fuck and he's pissed at me for not returning his calls and hiding from him really but I'm tired of having sex with him for the sake of getting off because I have to work too hard and he's started banging me the way he probably bangs his wife, like he's a slug, and I don't like kissing him one bit and I'm at the point now where I just can't do it anymore. Sex should not be cumbersome. And I don't like the idea of searching for love or trying to conjure up passion. Which is probably one reason why it feels like I've lost a lot over these last few years. I know things can never be the way they were (and I wouldn't dare want it back) but there are a few relatively simple things I've stopped doing that I want to put back in my life.

    I wish I could call Delilah. But I can't. She'd only been my best friend since college and we only talked on the phone every other day and she was the most brilliant person I ever met and we could talk about anything and she lived all the way in Philly and then last year she decides to surprise me and die suddenly from some stupid liver cancer that she didn't even tell me she had until she was in the fucking hospital and then she was gone the next week and there was a lot of shit we still needed to talk about. A whole lot of stuff. Years and years' worth of stuff. She knew I was going to miss her ass and I do miss her black ass and the only way I can make the hurt go away is to do one of two things: pretend that she's still alive and that we're just not on speaking terms, which we went through from time to time, or pretend that she never existed. Trying to do both has required a great deal of effort and imagination and whenever I'm not looking my heart plummets down real low and I can hardly tolerate the longing.

    So over these next two weeks I want to try to do some make-Stella-feel-good stuff. Which is why I'm planning to do some things I've been meaning to do but haven't for one reason or another. Mostly because I'm always too busy. Always doing something. Work alone has been kicking my ass. It's been said before, but I'm here to give new meaning to the phrase "I hate my job."

    I might actually call up a few old friends and sit in a chair and not roam around the house while I talk but give them my undivided attention, listen to what they have to say, what they've been going through, how they've been feeling. These are people I do care about but now they're just on the B list. My life has gotten too busy. And it's time for me to slow it down.

    I will also cook. I used to cook all kinds of interesting and exotic meals, but after Walter left, if Quincy couldn't identify it he didn't even want to try it. A double Big Mac and supersize fries and a nine-piece Chicken McNugget with a medium Sprite and apple pie is his meal of choice. I miss cooking. I miss smelling new smells and stirring new sauces and being surprised by the taste of something different. I will cook. I will make it a habit. I will even make some of those low-fat meals from a few of the fifty or sixty cookbooks I've purchased over the years and have yet to ever open.

    For the last two or three years I've been meaning to make a computerized printout of all my relatives' and friends' birthdays and even their kids' and have it printed on a specially made calendar so that each day when I walk into my office all I have to do is look up and see whose birthday is coming up, and their card and maybe even a gift depending on their age and who they were would be a surprise and on time.

    I'll also plant some flowers in the front and back yards since I've been reading about the Zen of gardening and how gratifying it can be, and since it's been a while since I've had sex I'll take whatever form pleasure comes in. At any rate, I've heard that this gardening stuff can relax you and even give you some of those endorphins like people get when they exercise.

    This too is something I'd like to improve upon while my son is off to the Rockies with his how-did-I-ever-love-his-lifeless daddy. As it stands now, I am almost ashamed to tell people that I hired a personal trainer who comes to my house three days a week to make me pump and grind and sweat because the bottom line is that I'm lazy and have no willpower and have woken up too many mornings from dreams in which I worked out so strenuously and was truly too beautiful for a woman who'd just turned forty and I put stars like Cher and Tina Turner and Diana Ross to shame but it wasn't until a year later after having a series of such dreams that I realized I had never broken a sweat let alone panted. It has taken me another year to get into the rhythm of working out and there are many mornings when I'd just as soon call in sick, but as a result of my desire to improve my health with the real motive being pure vanity I now am almost in shape although I still have my unfair share of cellulite, but it's not as much as I used to have thank the Lord and I actually do have a number of muscles and my butt is higher and firmer than I ever recall it being but since I'd been paying the health club $105 a month for two years and had actually only been inside to give tours to visiting friends and relatives and inform them that whenever I had the time this is where I usually worked out though the truth was I'd only gone in there to sit in the steam room but since I now have two steam rooms--here and in my cabin at Lake Tahoe--there was really no need to waste my gas driving there so why bother, so last year I admitted to myself that I was bullshitting myself and since I have had a difficult time visualizing myself fat and slovenly and just plain old I decided--like they do in any twelve-step program--to turn myself over to a higher power. Her name is Krystal and she makes Cindy Crawford look like a zero and she only charges fifty dollars an hour. I used to use drugs that cost me more per minute. Which is one reason I could never run for public office. If anyone ever did a background check on me they'd be in for a big shock. But then again, they are always shocked at everybody else's background when they're running for public office, aren't they? No one who has really lived should have a sterling background, in my opinion. My sister Angela is the only baby boomer I know who's never tried any drugs at all. She's missed out on a lot of good shit if you ask me.

    But those were the good old days. Times have changed. Twenty years have passed. I am a grown-up. In every sense of the word. I have responsibilities. I am responsible. I am a good mother. I am raising a black male child by myself and trying to be a mother and father and do my very best so that he'll grow up to be a strong proud and confident black man who knows his own worth and value and is not afraid to love and show his feelings and yet he'll be strong as steel on the outside and as soft and sensuous as a cashmere sweater inside. I spend a lot of time being a mother.

    I am also a fancy-smancy analyst for one of the world's largest investment banking institutions and I make a shitload of money and my family is proud of me because I'm the only one who has actually made it to the top but all I know is that it is lonely as hell up here and I don't particularly like it. At this point in my life, I'd settle for being in the middle. My job is dull and boring. I just always assumed that a person could have more than one talent, more than one skill, and you could display as many of them as you had available, but I've learned that this is not necessarily true. It is difficult to be taken seriously if you are an artist, but playing with numbers gets quite a bit of attention. I've also come to realize that the price I'm paying to get paid a lot is a little on the high side. It seems to me that once you get past the two-hundred-thousand-a-year mark you are constantly being appraised and as a result always trying to prove your worth. It wears you out and at the same time no matter what you do or how good you think you are at it, as long as someone ranks higher on that hierarchy than you it makes you expendable. It's too hectic up here and the race is always on. It's always rush hour but I haven't figured out when to put on my blinker because it's safe to change lanes and I'm also not sure which exit I should take to get off this track altogether.

    I know there's still room in my life for steel and suede for copper and leather for brass and wood for marble slate glass and material in general, but I just don't know how when or where to put it back in. Mostly because I'm scared. I've always been good at making things that serve a purpose, that perform, that function, but art is so iffy and then there's the mortgage and I'm not sure if I could recapture regain or pick up where I left off, if I'll ever have the guts the chutzpah hell the balls to leave my job.

    My divorce and starting all over has taken most of the bite out of me for right now and I don't know exactly how long it's going to take me to get my groove back on as the young kids say. All I know is this: Loss is hard. Starting over is hard. Which is why I'm just trying to get from one day to the next, why I'm on the straight and narrow, and it's probably the reason why most of the time my life is not fun.

    Right now I'm tired of thinking about how uneventful my life has been lately and I wish I knew what I could do to put the fizz back into it. How to resurrect myself. How to shoot some vitality into my heart, my mind, this house of soul I live in. I haven't always been dead. I used to live a somewhat exciting life. I used to take chances. I used to do some crazy shit and didn't give a damn because I wasn't hurting anybody. Fifteen years ago my life was interesting because I didn't know where I was going I just knew I was going somewhere. It was exciting because I hadn't arrived anywhere yet. And the journey itself was exhilarating. The detours. The uncertainty. I used to change my mind about things right in the middle of doing the shit. Made mistakes and was woman enough to admit I made them but didn't slay myself for it. It was usually some bullshit that was reversible anyway. Back then I did whatever I felt like doing that gave me pleasure. When did I stop? And why? After or during marriage? Motherhood? My so-called career?

    I walk outside for a minute to think about this and when the dog runs up to me with his wet dog-smelling self I pat him on the head and go back into the house. My latte is cold and I step inside my office to pick out a book but out of the thousand or so I have it doesn't seem as if any of them suit my mood. I don't want to read anything too lighthearted or too deep either. I close the door and head back toward the family room because I'm not so sure that I really want to escape my own world. That I want to be engaged.

    Part of my problem is that I'm always doing something and if I'm not then I'm looking for something to do. I decide to lie down and take a nap. To simply stop moving. For a change. So I sink into the thick cushions on the red love seat and I close my eyes but the leather is cold against my skin and I'm not exactly exhausted because I haven't exactly exerted any real energy today except what it took to decide on what I was and wasn't going to do.

    Without even trying I find myself springing up and decide that I'll watch a little television, something mindless, and it's the one thing I rarely do except maybe by accident like the accident I'm causing right now. I don't even know if I have HBO or Showtime and I'm hoping I do and even though my watch says it's now twenty to one in the afternoon I don't care if I tune in to the middle of a movie because I'm like an intelligent enough woman who should be able to figure out how something started but I guess all I really want is to hear some noise since Quincy's not here making any or maybe I'm just so used to being distracted I need something to stop me from thinking so hard about my own mundane redundant predictable but good little life.

    I try three remotes before one works. And as soon as the TV comes on of course there's a commercial and without looking up I hear this melodic baritone voice almost singing "Come to Jamaica" and I swear it seems as if he's talking to me and when I look at the fifty-five-inch screen it is filled with turquoise water and hot white sand and a blazing yellow sun and then a bronzed white man in a flapping white cotton shirt and baggy white linen trousers strolls along the shore and a tanned white woman in a straw hat and sunglasses is stretched out on a chaise longue with a book resting across her chest and they are both holding tall frothy glasses filled with something melon-colored and I think I can smell the papaya juice the pineapple juice and coconut oil and that tropical breeze is whispering in my ear and when I look closer that white woman's legs begin to turn brown and she is wearing my chartreuse bathing suit and my good straw hat and that's my Swatch watch on her wrist and my Revo sunglasses and when I look closer at this woman who now looks like she could be my twin sister I realize it is me lying on that chaise on that beach and when that lilting voice once again says "Come to Jamaica," I sit up then stand up and I say to that man, "Why the fuck not?"

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    I have the movie

    I love the movie: I think it's great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    Love it!

    Better than the movie

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  • Posted December 13, 2012

    I read this book back in 1997 or 1998 and I can still remember t

    I read this book back in 1997 or 1998 and I can still remember the words she used to vividly describe the characters, settings, and emotions flowing over the pages in this EXCEPTIONAL novel. I am a TRUE fan of Ms. McMillan's work!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Cant help but wonder

    Loved the story but would have enjoyed it more if she didnt seem to dislike white people. Had a white writer written the same thing about people of whatever color, cant help but wonder what the outcry would have been.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2006

    Very Entertaining!

    I could not put this book down. Very fast paced and readable. It kept me turning pages trying to figure out where the relationship was going. I love the way McMillan writes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2006

    Off to Jamaica by myself!!!!

    Stella is my hero! she makes me want to fly off to Jamaica for a solo vacation...and see what happens. She makes me glad to be a woman too!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2005

    How Stella Got Her Groove Back

    'Part of my problem is that I'm always doing something and if I'm not, then I'm looking for something to do.' Stella Payne is a middle-aged black woman living the life most people would dream of. Divorced with a child, she owns a huge house, a nice car, and has a job to die for. But as for Stella, the life is empty. So when she finally has some time to herself, she decides to take a trip to Jamaica. After the long runs along the beach, spicy Jamaican food, and about six virgin pina coladas per day, Stella feels younger than she's felt in years. But when a young man, half her age actually, charms her with his presence, she is swept into a world of confusion. Stella finally remembers what it was like to fall in love, but she definitely doesn't remember it being this hard. And when she gets back home she faces an even, as it would seem, bigger problem. McMillan definitely can spin a tale of desperation, love, life, lust, and how one woman decides how to fulfill her dreams.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    Illicit Love

    'How Stella ...' is a book about a middle aged woman who goes to bed with a cute young guy. As far as a view of Jamaican life, there is not much of that. It shows the seductive atmosphere of the all-inclusive resort. Everyone in the book is rich. On the other hand, 'Jamaica Girl' shows the real Jamaica far outside resort walls. In its theme of illicit love it is a much truer, braver book, as the two protagonists could not be more different. Yet due to Rosalind's beautiful soul and undaunted spirit, love triumphs over seemingly insurmountable barriers. If you want to go outside the plush resorts and get a deep vision of Jamaican culture, its gross inequities and its transcendent joys, read Miller's book. As a novel 'Jamaica Girl' puts McMillan's book to shame.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    Disappointed

    I did not enjoy reading ( the few chapters I did read.)this book but I did like the movie. What turned me off was the contant mentioning of the age difference in the novel. I quickly became bored with it.I donated the book to the local library. I hope someone found it worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2003

    I kept waiting for this book to get better, but it didn't.

    While I have enjoyed reading other books by Ms. McMillan, I was totally put off by an obviously intelligent, sophisticated, intellectual, successful woman's ability to fall head over heels in love with a young man who knew how to kiss and smelled good. While I can appreciate the age difference as being totally irrevalent in any relationship, I just don't believe that this boy could ever be more than what he was, a vacation fling. Her sister, Angela, was right. Stella will tire of this kid before the year is out. Twenty year old boys aren't ready for a relationship with the likes of a mature woman who already had her groove together pretty well. Perhaps if Stella had been 62 and Winston 40, this fling might have been conceivable. Otherwise, speed read through Ms. McMillan impossibly long sentences sans punctuation, and go on with your life. I sometimes felt that I was reading the same page over and over again. This book is simply fluff and in my opinion, not very interesting fluff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2003

    Terry McMillan Gets Her Groove Back

    McMillan pens a character who is a single mother forty, and coincidentally black, but don't let that dissuade you from picking this up. Although reading from a female, single, white perspective, there were few times I ever felt alienated, for McMillan brilliantly tells inexorable truths about being single in America today.Stella, the main character, has raised her son, established a lucrative career, and settled into a comfortable life finding her independence from men and society; yet something pulls her to a spontaneous Jamaican holiday and inevitably a 21 year old native man named Winston. What follows is a juggling act that any May/December romance would produce. Stella reproves herself constantly, unable to believe Winston would actually want to be with her, and unable to make a commitment after what the world has taught her. She confesses that 'what I do know deep down although I keep it secretly secret is that I am terrified at the thought of losing myself again wholeheartedly to any man because it is so scary peeling off that protective sealant that's been guarding my heart and letting somebody go inside and walk around lie down look around and see all those red flags especially when right next to year heart is your soul and then inside that is the rest of your personality puzzle pieces and they're full of flaws and in your grown-up years you have just finally started to recognize them for what they are one by one.' This narrative, a no-holds-barred free for all, tumbles easily like a mountain stream. McMillan speaks to her readers as friends and thus Stella becomes anyone you know, or yourself, because she tells you information as if you were best friends. This style, mostly associated with women writers and minorities in particular, may not jell with what we've been taught in the canonized versions of literature; yet it moves with such fluidity you can't help but smile and turn the pages.McMillan speaks of Jamaica in such beautiful and colorful language, I felt like an American tourist sharing the beach with her. Her admiration for beautiful bodies, no color specific, is a lesson to all on how to see the attractiveness within every person. After maintaining a long-distance relationship, with its drawbacks and pitfalls, Stella journeys to Jamaica again, this time with her son Quincy in tow to vote yea or nea on Winston. What she learns is that no one, not even her son, can make a heartfelt decision about love for her. Does love conquer all? Is she able to throw the yoke of society and its view on older women/younger men relationships? And does she eventually tell her mother and sister knowing the reproach she will certainly receive. Well, I'm not going to tell you. Pick up the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    This was great once you get past Chaper 5.

    "Then I look over at what is now a storage shed that I was told was once a guesthouse and then I turned it into a studio but of course that was when I used to be this creative erson and I had energy and a thriving spirit and I would design and conceive and sometimes actually manufacture what I used to call functional sculpture aka handcrafted furniture that people in fact solicited and paid me real money to make for them out of everything from aluminum copper steel wood whatever, but then it became so hard to like pay the rent and then this husband I ended up saying yes to when I should've just said no convinced me that I could use that MBA I got and like combine it with that MFA I also had which of course all by itself was worthless and who could afford this eccentric one-of-a-kind so-called furniture when a normal person could like just go to Thomasville or Levitz or Ikea and of course I didn't know how to mix commerce with art and so I failed at working with my hands." Terry McMillan, Chapter One of "How Stella..." It's sentences like this that go on and on that threw my focus off in at least the first 5 chapters. After that, it was a pretty good read. "Mama" was the first Terry McMillan book I read and it was phenomenal, but "Stella..." sort of got under my skin with the half-page sentences. Periods and commas and other punctuation are reader-friendly. It was difficult to know when to stop and start with this one. Make it past Chapter 5 and you'll laugh, laugh, laugh. You love it after that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2002

    rating from amateaur

    terry your book was a one in a million chance of happening and it did to my sister she went to jamaica and had very similar expierences to stella. it was a very intersting love novel the man was not 20 and shes not 40 but he is younger than her.what we all want is love and romance in our lives

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    McMillan Can Do Better

    Having read and enjoyed 'Mama', 'Disappearing Acts', and 'Waiting to Exhale', I was looking forward to digging into 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back.' This book, unfortunately, cannot compare to the others. While the narrator is sympathetic, I found it difficult to forget that Ms. McMillan is, in fact, married to a much younger man in real life. With the endless praising of Winston, the young man in the book, I couldn¿t help feeling as if Ms. McMillan was writing the novel with her husband reading over her shoulder. Also, while love is a many splendored thing, I found McMillan¿s ecstasy over finally landing a man rather off-putting. The message seemed to be that life was dull, drab and meaningless for women who do not have a hot stud half their age to make them tingle. Once again, it felt as if Ms. McMillan was writing with the knowledge that her other half would later be reading it. Speaking of younger men, the novel had a terrible amount of ageism in it. Ms. McMillan was derisive of anyone over 40 who had let themselves go. It never seems to occur to the narrator that not everyone has either the money and/or the inclination to have a personal trainer as she does. At one point in the novel, Stella is downright cruel to a man who is over 50, and unfortunately, sounds it. As if anyone can help the age they are. Overall, this novel failed to reach the right note which Ms. McMillan has so easily found in her previous novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2001

    McMillian did a wonderful job.

    Terry McMillian did a wonderful job describing what women really want. I really enjoy how she captures the reality of a middle aged female, recently divorced, raising a child on her own and getting into relationships with the wrong men. I've always wanted to visit Jamaica and by reading this book it gave me a sense of what it's really like. If anyone hasn't read the book, you should rush out and buy it now!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2001

    Excellent and fast paced....easy to read

    I really enjoyed this book. I found it hullarious, touching and realistic. I read this book in less than a week b/c I was constantly wondering what Stella would do next. I knew somewhat for I had seen the film prior to reading the book. The film is also wonderful...it is the first movie that I have seen that is better then the book. I liked the movie because it was more insightful then the book adding a new charector played by whoppi Goldberg who added some extra funny and poigniant scenes. Also in the movie Winston helped Stella fulfill her dream of being a furniture designer that she had abandoned. I am only 15 and I am a male and I am white....so I couldn't totally relate to the 42 year old black female who narrated the book, but I still enjoyed it very much, and would recommend this book to everyone, especially any middle aged woman. Email me to talk about this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2000

    A really good book

    I would recommend this book to all the women out there who have seemed to have lost their thrill for having fun or for love. Stella payne makes the sweet nice funny romantic and adds a small amount of drama. Winston shakespear gives it all the love romantic and the sweet parts. This book is really funny and sweet and adds spice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2000

    nuttin but the truth

    another outstanding book by terry....u go girl is all i got to say....if u have seen the movie but haven't read the book...go get it... read it....i assure you that you won't be able to put it down....if u think the movie is good u really got to get the book now that u have winston..'taye diggs'..to think about as u read it ladies....there isn't enough stars to rate this book...its off the charts!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2000

    I GOT MY GROOVE BACK TOO!!!!

    Well Terry, you out did yourself. I saw the movie before I actually read the book. I always wanted to go to Jamaica.A girlfriend-coworker and I did last summer. Girls, Goooo to Jamaica. Believe it or not, I was missing Jamaica and the people I met and decided to read your book. I laughed the whole 1 day it took me to read it. It reminded me so much of my trip and girlfriend I truly related to Stella, it was as if you were writing the book about me. If anyone hasn't read the book rush out and buy it now!!! By the way, I found my Winston too!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2000

    EXCELLANT

    THIS BOOK IS TRULY A GEM,I REALLY LOVE STELLA, SHE IS INDEPENDENT AND TRULY KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS AND GOES FOR IT NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAY OR WHAT THEY THINK OF HER, AND WHO SAYS THAT YOU CAN'T FIND LOVE WITH SOME ONE 20 YEARS YOUR JUNIOR, IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL AND HOW MATURE THAT PERSON IS, AND I THINK WINSTON FITS THAT BILL, HE BRINGS HAPPINESS BACK INTO STELLA'S LIFE AND SHOWS HER THAT ITS OKAY TO LOVE.

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