The Interruption of Everything

( 63 )


"Marilyn Grimes, wife and mother of three, has made a career of deferring her dreams to build a suburban California home and lifestyle with her husband, Leon. She troubleshoots for her grown kids, cares for her live-in mother-in-law, Arthurine (and elderly poodle, Snuffy); keeps tabs on her girlfriends Paulette and Bunny and her own aging mother and foster sister - all the while holding down a part-time job. But at forty-four, Marilyn's got too much on her plate and nothing to feed her passion. She feels like she's about ready to jump. She's just ...
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The Interruption of Everything

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"Marilyn Grimes, wife and mother of three, has made a career of deferring her dreams to build a suburban California home and lifestyle with her husband, Leon. She troubleshoots for her grown kids, cares for her live-in mother-in-law, Arthurine (and elderly poodle, Snuffy); keeps tabs on her girlfriends Paulette and Bunny and her own aging mother and foster sister - all the while holding down a part-time job. But at forty-four, Marilyn's got too much on her plate and nothing to feed her passion. She feels like she's about ready to jump. She's just not sure where." The Interruption of Everything is a testament to the fact that the detour is the path, and living life "by the numbers" never quite adds up.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
To say that 45-year-old Marilyn Grimes is suffering from a midlife crisis is to understate. Her three children have left the nest; her boring engineer husband, Leon, is in career crisis and apparently philandering; her mother may be developing Alzheimer's; and Marilyn herself is searching for new frontiers or a place to leap. By turns, hilarious and heartbreaking; Terry McMillan in vintage form.
Jabari Asim
Marilyn's willingness to recognize such qualities where others may be inclined to overlook them is consistent throughout the novel. Her nuanced approach to life encourages her to look for deeper explanations. Whereas her friend Paulette says all men "seem to go a little nuts after they hit their forties," Marilyn tries to fathom her husband's difficulties instead of just dismissing him as a head case. Her willingness to listen inspires him to be candid, and, tentatively, a genuine conversation begins. Whether are not they resolve their differences will not be disclosed here. I will say that I'm holding out hope for Marilyn, whom I came to care about a great deal as the novel proceeded.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Marilyn Grimes is desperately frustrated with her life as a housewife and amateur crafts maker. The world seems to be conspiring against her, as she and her husband hit the emotional and physical rocks of middle age and her extended family keeps erupting in chaos. Emmy Award-winning Whitfield's attempt at husky male voices is awkward, but she does a great job with both older women (Marilyn's mother, who has Alzheimer's, and her sassy mother-in-law, who "elopes" with her new retirement home lover). Oddly, her voice as Marilyn is often not engaging. In some ways the weakness in her characterization is appropriate, as Marilyn claims her soul has been "in hiding" as she's catered to everyone else's needs. But some listeners may get bored by Marilyn's narration, especially compared to her lively girlfriends and family. Still, Whitfield was a natural choice for the part, and she mostly lives up to her reputation in delivering this journey of self-discovery. Also available unabridged on 10 CDs and narrated by Desiree Taylor. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, May 30). (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Marilyn Grimes, age 44, is angry, whiny, and perhaps perimenopausal. With three children in college, a boring husband, a live-in mother-in-law, and her own mother showing signs of dementia, she finds little joy in her suburban California world. Just when she comes up with an escape plan-graduate school-her life is interrupted yet again. Marilyn finds out she's pregnant and that her husband, Leon, is leaving for a month-long men's retreat in Costa Rica. During his absence, Marilyn ricochets in several directions but finally confronts her biggest enemy-herself. Girlfriends Paulette and Bunny, mother-in-law Arthurine, and sister Joy play significant cameo roles as this no-holds-barred, dialog-driven story tackles numerous contemporary issues, most notably our perceptions of aging. With twists on familiar themes, irreverent humor, and a heroine who has more backbone than we initially thought, McMillan's latest (after A Day Late and a Dollar Short) brings it all back home. This is life-affirming women's fiction delivered by one of the best in the field. Destined for the best sellers lists, the book belongs in most popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05; BOMC alternate.]-Teresa L. Jacobsen, Santa Monica P.L., CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The sparks fly in McMillan's latest, a crowded family drama with two midlife crises competing for attention. Marilyn Grimes suspects she's premenopausal, but tests show she's seven weeks pregnant. This is bittersweet news for the narrator, who has spent 23 of her 44 years being a model housewife and mother in her middle-class neighborhood of Oakland Hills, across from San Francisco. She's raised three kids, now grown, while her engineer husband, Leon, has been a good provider, though the fun has gone out of their marriage. Then new tests show the fetus is dead, which is pure relief for Marilyn, though she still has her hands too full to focus on self-fulfillment: an MFA program, a business venture. Down in Fresno, her mother, Lovey, is becoming senile, and Marilyn's much younger adopted sister, Joy, can't cope: A drug addict, she can't even raise her own two kids, Tiecey and LL, so Marilyn must periodically descend from what Joy derisively calls her "little Cosby world" to help out. That little Cosby world is topsy-turvy too. Not only has Arthurine, Leon's far from senile mother, who lives with them, suddenly started dating, but one of Marilyn's sons is home on spring break, bringing his girlfriend and a bunch of homeboys-and staid old Leon is turning into a homeboy himself, looking ludicrous in new baggy jeans. When he announces he's off to Costa Rica to find himself and may be leaving Marilyn for good, she goes ballistic. McMillan is at her best juggling all these different characters. Bring 'em on! And the zingers are blistering. The second half is less turbulent, until news comes that Joy is dead. Marilyn must decide how to pick up the pieces while heartbreaking little Tiecey almoststeals the show. Undercharacterized Leon is the weak link here. Otherwise, McMillan's combination of boisterous humor and real compassion, both for the old and the underclass, is deeply impressive.
From the Publisher
“TERRY MCMILLAN KEEPS IT REAL.…easily her most accomplished turns laugh-out-loud funny and gut-punch painful. McMillan has painted a convincing portrait of the kind of woman who can say yes to everyone but herself.”—Boston Herald

“VINTAGE MCMILLAN...a very human story with large doses of friendship, humor, family, and imperfect relationships.”—The Dallas Morning News

“FUNNY, SAD, AND…FEISTY. [A] frank, no-holds-barred, humorous look at African-American midlife.”—The Seattle Times

“[MCMILLAN] HAS…A CUTTING WIT, a knack for capturing the way real people think and speak, a fearless willingness to engage complex, painful issues, and an unerring instinct for fashioning characters that enchant readers’ imaginations.”—The Washington Post


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670031443
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/12/2005
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,002,834
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry McMillan

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

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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 1

The only reason I'm sitting on a toilet seat in the handicapped stall of the ladiesf room is because I'm hiding. My break is just fifteen minutes long and I'm trying to decide with the help of a book on the subject of "the change" if Paulette was really on to something when she suggested I get a blood test to see if my hormone levels were diminishing. And if it turns out to be true, I might want to get them replenished with something besides the Good & Plenty I've been eating by the handful for the last seven or eight months and I don't even like licorice. I'm also sitting here with an old issue of Bead & Button trying to figure out if I shouldfve played it safe and used plastic instead of glass beads since I just had to make my very first jewelry attempt a gift, and because sometimes I do think that more is better, just had to add three strands more than the instructions called for and now I don't know how to close up the ends. I'm not used to asking for help.

Paulette claims I've been showing enough symptoms of a perimenopausal woman to warrant further examination, which initially irritated me. She merely closed her eyelids over those hazel contacts and sucked her tongue across those shiny white veneers and whipped over one shoulder all five hundred of those individual braids that are way too long for a forty-eight-year-old woman who is no Donna Summer and said, "I know what I'm talking about. You remind me of me four years ago."

Experiencing something once does not make you an expert on the subject.

The rampage I went on last week about Leon may have added more fuel to the flames. Perhaps my reaction to my husbandfs forgetting to set the empty water bottles out was a little strong, but it was totally symbolic of a lot of other things he neglects. Ten minutes into my rant, Paulette just said, "Girl, you need to hurry up and have that test so you can be restored back to full sanity. Assuming you once were! But seriously, you need to do something because your circuit-breaker is not working. On a lighter note, don't forget: Pity Party next Friday at Bunny's. I can't wait to hear your latest bullshit, if there's anything left to tell. And as an FYI: Bunny's taking another online course, girl. This time it's psychology. So be prepared. She's probably going to be Freud's little sister. Just try to be nice, Marilyn."

"Nice" has been difficult for me lately. Paulette has also been kind enough to point out that all those who land in my path of wrath (as she calls my unconfirmed Pause Personality) deserve a break, especially Leon, and Arthurine, his nosey mother who has eyes in the back of her head and lives with us along with her handicapped dog to whom I have the luxury of being a private nurse. I wish I could take all of them on a one-way cruise out to sea and then sail back to shore alone. This does sound mean, but some days I can't help it.

I have to admit that I have experienced quite a few of the symptoms Paulette was sweet enough to bring to my attention. But I didn't tell her. She loves being right and I hate being wrong. I snap the book shut. Should I break down and spend even more money on French wire and Bali silver cones to close up the ends of this damn necklace? Trying to achieve true beauty can be expensive. But Bead & Button seems to imply that using inferior (or cheap) materials will help deter that dreaded question: "Did you make that?"

I'm making this damn thing for Bunny, my other best friend, for her thirty-seventh, thirty-eighth, but most likely her fortieth birthday. I've got close to a month before she turns the big hand on the clock. But even with my 20 percent discount, we're still talking about explaining to The Husband Who Is Not at Sea why these sums are necessary when they appear on the Visa or MasterCard bill. And if I do mess up (or=just say it, Marilyn=if you fuck it up), since one never knows one has even made a mistake until after one has made it: at what price, friendship? Not that Bunny would notice.

Class is something she doesn't respect, understand, or care about. "What can you do with it?" she's asked Paulette and me over the years. Particularly when we've tried year after year to persuade her to trade in that Atlantic City-looking 1989 red Corvette she insists on driving; we dropped major hints that she might want to try going to a real furniture store to purchase real furniture one or two pieces at a time instead of decorating and designing her entire condo in a single trip to IKEA where they may as well have airbrushed the four showrooms directly into her crib; and we encouraged her to reconsider always having on display her recent purchase of a D cup. But Bunny has consistently ignored us. "It's all good," as one of my sons would say.

Tonight Ifll be stretched out on her make-believe sofa with thirty minutes to pour out my suffering soul after we've eaten takeout at her little table for two and she and Paulette will say whatever it takes to lift my spirits to a level of clarity since I've obviously had difficulty doing it on my own.

The ladiesf room door bangs. Shit! It's them. The crazy women I'm hiding from, the ones who always want me to take part in their thrice-weekly reality show. I have been ordained Craft Staff Supervisor here at Heavenly Creations, and these two are not only the storefs very best customers, they also purportedly work here and provide live entertainment.

Now Maureen shouts: "I'm just so outdone! I'm going crazy, Trudy! I mean really frigging crazy! I can't believe he did this! To me! After fourteen years of what I thought was a good—no, great—marriage and out of the blue he just decides to tell me hefs found a new torch that's been turning his low flame into a forest fire and that according to Dr. Phil he's been in denial for five years about how bored he's been with dus' and the whole suburban lifestyle and he said he didn't want to hurt me and the kids by coming clean but there was no getting around it and by the way her name is oh who cares what her name is!? Trudy, I feel like such a fool! I mean, what am I supposed to do without a husband and three kids all under the age of twelve?"

"You really think you're extraspecial, don't you, Maureen? That's your whole problem. Well, welcome to the pool of pain millions of women have been swimming in for years, sweetheart."

"Youfre not making me feel any better, Trudy. I thought I could confide in you."

"You are. But let me finish my thought. It's a miracle to me just how well some of us have managed—those of us who are the unfortunate beneficiaries of out-of-control husbands. I truly believe that the women who were only given fifteen minutes to adjust to their newfound fame as Single Mothers and only used six or seven of them, have been touched by an angel of some kind because how else could any one human being adjust so quickly and handle so much responsibility without a quick stint in the Loony Bin? You and the kids are probably going to be better off, if you think of the odds."

"What odds?" Maureen asks.

"Let's face it. How much do husbands really do? I mean, what role do they really play around the house? Go ahead and say it, Maureen! Not much. I've managed to marry three cut from the same exact mold. Go figure. They think their paychecks and their penises equal making a physical contribution, which is why we're always too tired to fuck them. Am I on track here or what?"

She had a point, and I squirmed on the hard seat. Leon would certainly fit in if they were to take a group photo.

"I hadn't thought of it like that before, Trudy. But even still, I'll take his paycheck and his penis any day over nothing."

Maureen and Trudy are both what I call Craft Junkies because in the year and a half I've been working here, theyfve taken just about every three-hour and five-week class offered as long as it didn't involve fire, food, or fumes. Theyfre also "repeaters" because they took my beginning pillow-making class so many times that once I realized theirs were actually better made than mine, I got the owner to hire them to help with the setups. HC (as I call it) is small enough that it feels intimate. Here, nothing is locked behind glass or steel cabinets except of course the spray paint, but thatfs only because of the teenagers. Other than this, nothing suffocates under plastic that we arenft happy to unwrap. You can touch anything we sell at HC and we carry the very best high-end arts and craft supplies available in the United States. And I should know, because I'm a junkie, too.

Trudy and Maureen often forget to pick up their paychecks, which they seem to think of as weekly gift certificates. I do not have the nerve to ask but I'd sure like to know where they put all those damn pillows. They think theyfre hot stuff because they can make up to twenty different kinds of knots that they learned in Stephaniafs=the spinster from Israel=Beauty of Knots class. Lord knows theyfve made enough floral arrangements to cover ten fake funerals; so many gingerbread houses that some of our Olympian ants stopped trying to penetrate them; and enough of those Little House on the Prairie year-round wreaths that ten years ago were like status symbols on front doors across America but now don't even generate a comment when a stranger rings their bell.

Trudy washes her hands then hits the dryer button. I'm starting to slide off this toilet seat. I lean forward and swirl these black-denim hips around like they were thirty-six instead of forty-four inches as quietly as I possibly can while lowering my sneakers to the floor, but when my cell phone starts vibrating in the uniform pocket above my left breast, the magazine and book fall off my lap and hit the floor. Shit!

"If he thinks I'm leaving without putting up a fight, he's got another thing coming."

"I wouldn't jump so far ahead of myself," Trudy says. "Take a deep breath."

I hear Maureen inhaling and swallowing air.

"And another. One more."

"Trudy, I won't be able to breathe if I keep taking breaths! Now I'm standing in front of you with a busted heart so cut me some slack on the breathing, okay?"

"Okay, okay. Just trying to help you relax and not blow a gasket. We're at work, remember?"

"But we're not on the clock." Maureen blows her nose and then starts washing her hands. If I was really interested, I would wonder what theyfre doing here at this hour but it's anybodyfs guess. Sometimes they come in here to kill time between drop-offs and pickups at any number of sport venues for adolescents.

Trudy and Maureen would be the first to admit that making things that are unnecessary is not only fun, theyfre happy to have something to do that gets them out of the house. Something that has nothing to do with children or husbands. They arenft particularly fascinated by art or beauty, just grateful for the distraction: this is precisely why they had designers decorate their homes and gave them carte blanche. They wanted to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having to make too many conflicting decisions at once: from hardware to fabric, carpeting to faux finishes, to where the trampoline would be safest. They wanted to be surprised when they moved in.

"He cheated cheated cheated!" Maureen blurts out again as if she's trying to remind herself of it. "But don't you worry one bit because he'll pay for it. Big time," Trudy says a little louder. I'm not sure if she's talking about karma, child support, or alimony.

"But I don't want a divorce!" Maureen slurs, which just means the Xanax she's "required" to take must have kicked in. Now she's crying. "I just want things to be back the way they used to be! Exactly, precisely like they were! Normal!"

I press the magazine against my chest like it has some kind of healing properties. Twenty-some- odd years ago, I was drunken-in-love with Leon and life, and with all the possibilities my future held. I can't remember when the dreams stopped being real and reality wiped out the dreams. When everything that took up my time was always something tangible. How do you lose so much and not notice when it starts evaporating? Why does it feel like I missed something or that I forgot to do something? It feels like all I've been doing is shaking out wrinkles. Tears are rolling down my face because I realize how comfortable I've gotten with this numbness.

I just want things to be back the way they used to be. Exactly. Normal. I feel like yelling out to Maureen that nothing can ever be the way it was. We just long for whatever was once good. It's the longing that makes us slide into a nostalgic coma. It's a way of resisting what is happening right now. I loved raising my kids but I wouldnft want to go through it again. Theyfre finally out of the house and off at college. If the truth be told, I crave the exact opposite of what Maureen wants: to go forward=not backward. I'm just not sure how to get there. Which is probably why I'm now bawling my eyes out.

Trudy knocks on the stall door. "Are you all right in there?"

"You wouldnft think so, Trudy," I say, gathering my composure and reading material before I open the door like I'm stepping into the light.

"Marilyn, what in Sam hell are you doing in the handicapped stall? I should give you a ticket! Are those tears in your eyes? What is this, the Tear Factory? I suppose you heard Miss Maureen's good news so we can pretty much label her tears, but what are yours for?"

"I honestly don't know. I think maybe it was hearing about your situation, Maureen. I suppose."

"It's a situation all right," she says, as if a thickness is coating her tongue.

"How many years have you been married now, Marilyn?" Trudy asks out of what seems like the blue.

"Twenty-three. Why?"

"That's entirely too long," Trudy says. "What I mean is, it's too long for you not to be just as miserable as the rest of us. So come on Miss Pillow Perfect, tell us you'e on the one-Zoloft-a- day-diet like the rest of us and we've got ourselves a club."

"Sorry, Trudy, but I don't think I qualify. I'm not exactly bursting with joy but I'm not miserable. You could say I've been living somewhere in the neighborhood of Mediocrity but have been waiting for a reserved parking space to open up in Happy Hills."

"Where? What are you talking about?" Trudy asks.

"It's not important. Anyway, I'm really sorry to hear about Roger, Maureen."

"It's fine. I'm fine. We'll all be fine. If he thinks hefs going to just walk out of my and the kidsf lives because he wants to live on Fantasy Island, I mean, hello? I didn't hear you flush, Marilyn. What were you doing in there?"

"I'd already flushed. But once Maureen got going, I didn't feel right opening the door."

"No worries!" Maureen says. "Look, we were here for the bread-making class, but I just can't handle it today."

To show that I understand, I nod. "Wait a minute! You did just say 'bread making,' correct?"

"Yes. Wefre evolving. Out of the fire and into the pan or something like that," Trudy says.

"Come on, Mo, let me treat you to a mocha nonfat latte with no foam and one Equal?" She winks at me. "See ya next weekend for a little trim, Marilyn."

After they leave, I drop the book and magazine on the dry part of the sink and put my hands under the faucet. I look down at the silver stream that gushes out, but can still see a shadow of myself in the mirror above. If I look up, Ifll see the truth in my eyes. What the hell am I doing? Here. Not in this store? But here: in this world, in northern California, in February 2004? Worrying about my hormone levels? Not only. I need to breathe. To stop pretending.

What I do know is that I'm forty-four years old. That I have been attached to my husband and kids for so long I need to find out what kind of person I'm capable of being as Marilyn Dupree and not just as Marilyn Grimes: mother and wife. But how do you make changes in your life without upsetting everything and everybody around you?

I'm scared. But I have to do something or the spirit I still have left is going to petrify. I just can't believe that I grew up and became one of those women who got married and had kids and forgot all about my personal dreams. At first I just tucked them away and then as the years passed, they got buried and I felt embarrassed or ashamed to have had them in the first place. I figured after I finished raising my children I'd at least get the interesting man I married back (didn't happen) and reacquainted with my other self and pick up where I left off.

They call us housewives. But contrary to popular belief, we're not all trophies like Maureen or as uneducated as Trudy, no malice intended. In fact, I did more than go to college. I got a degree, although I've almost forgotten what I majored in. Might as well have been Intro to First Husbands 101 (Gordon) the soul mate I let get away, and after two summer sessions of nothing close to intimacy, was coerced into repeating the class and enrolled in Second Husbands 101A (enter Leon). But then, after I'd barely flipped my tassel and was taking a one-year sabbatical before heading back to grad school because I thought being a social worker would help me steer as many unfortunate folk=black folk in particular=as far from self-destruction and poverty as they could get, but then surprise, surprise, here comes what I thought was only going to be a temporary interruption: Daughter 101 (Sabrina, a.k.a Isnft-She-Cute-and-Smart-Those-First- Eleven-Years, and then The-Rebellious-I'm-Already-Grown-and-Having-Sex-and-Getting-an- Occasional-Buzz-I-Could-Strangle-Her-Teenager-Years), who is now twenty-two and did a 360- degree turn. She became a vegetarian, got spiritual, and may be her generationfs Iyanla. Next came Fraternal Twin Boys 202 (Spencer and Simeon, nineteen): straight up and down computer and math nerds like their dad, who makes sure buildings are built properly so they wonft buckle during earthquakes. Leon helped build our house a century ago. It's big and boring. It's up in the Oakland Hills in what has been renamed The Fire Area since in 1990 almost all the homes up here were lost when some idiot set some eucalyptus trees on fire. Sometimes, I wished ours had burned to the ground so we could start all over. But it didn't. We only had minor smoke damage. Leon planned on doing the renovations himself, but fourteen years later, I stopped holding my breath.

Being a lifetime wife and mother has afforded me the luxury of having multiple and even simultaneous careers: I've been a chauffeur. A chef. An interior decorator. A landscape architect, as well as a gardener. I've been a painter. A furniture restorer. A personal shopper. A veterinarianfs assistant and sometimes the veterinarian. I've been an accountant, a banker, and on occasion, a broker. I've been a beautician. A map. A psychic. Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy. The T.V. Guide. A movie reviewer. An angel. God. A nurse and a nursemaid. A psychiatrist and psychologist. Evangelist. For a long time I have felt like I inadvertently got my masterfs in How To Take Care of Everybody Except Yourself and then a Ph.D. in How to Pretend Like You Don't Mind.

But I do mind.

"Marilyn? Are you still in here?" Trudy asks, sticking her head in the door. "Your fifteen minutes have come and gone, sister, now get your behind out here and sell some beads or something! And you've got a phone call."

"Did they say who it was?" I ask, pretending to fluff my flat hair. Leonfs out doing seismic studies in a desert down in southern California where his cell never works and he wonft be home until Monday afternoon, which also means hefs golfing. He rarely calls me at work because I'm usually busy demonstrating, hunting for, or explaining something to someone. And ...

"It's your favorite person."


"Say it out loud. I don't mind."


"Line three. Have a nice weekend, Marilyn. I'm outta here."

I walk behind the framing counter and press the blinking red light. "Hello, Arthurine. What's going on?"

"Well, you know I wouldn't bother you at work unless it was important ..."

"Has something happened? It's not the kids or Leon, is it?"

"Hold your horses, chile. No. No. The Lord says ..."

"Arthurine, I have a pretty good idea what the Lord had to say about being patient, but could you just get to the point, please? I've got customers waiting."

"Well, you didn't ask if something could've happened to me or Snuffy?"

"Well, you're in good enough shape to call me so how bad off could you be? And if it was Snuffy I'd think youfd sound sadder."

"Youfve got a point, except what if I ... Oh, never mind. Your doctor called and said you should call her."


"You want me to say it louder?"

"Did she say why?"

"They don't usually say why unless it's a matter of life and death and we both know you aren't dying. So think about it for a minute and call her."

"Did she leave her number?"

"You want me to dial it for you and make this a three-way?"

"Never mind, I forgot I've got it stored in my cell. Thanks for letting me know."

"You're welcome. What time will you be getting home?"

"The same time I always get home, Arthurine. In plenty of time to pick you up from Bible study, but I'm going over to Bunny's tonight to play cards."

"Didn't you all just play cards last month over at Paulette's?"

"We did."

"Why don't you never want to play with me when I ask?"

"Because you only like to play solitaire, Arthurine, and it's hard to play with another player."

"Well guess what?"

"I can't ..."

"Peggy's daughter is being a good Christian and has offered to bring me home after Bible study."

"Well, that's nice," I say, trying not to sound too relieved.

"I sure wish I could manage to cook something but my arthritis been acting up all week long and it's hard for me to open a can."

"Well, I wouldn't want you to strain yourself. I'll pick up something on my way home."

"Could it possibly be Mexican or Chinese?"

"Good-bye, Arthurine."

Shefs giggling when I hang up. She gets on the nerve that runs directly from the left and right sides of my brain. But God don't like ugly and I'm trying not to let ugly register anywhere near my heart or mind because Paulette probably has hidden cameras watching me. When I take my cell phone out of my jacket pocket I realize that it was my doctor who'd called while I was in the bathroom. I hang up and press "calls received" on my cell and get her office. "Yes, this is Marilyn Grimes and I'm returning Dr. Hilton's call. Is something wrong? Was my blood test abnormal or something?"

"No, no, no," the receptionist says, almost giggling, which makes me feel a little better. "The doctor just thought you might want to come in to talk about the results of your blood work, that's all."

"How soon?"

"How about Monday?"

"What time?"

"She could see you between two and four."

"I'll be there about two fifteen. And you're sure I'm not sick?"

"No, you are not sick, she just wants to explain what your test results mean and then let you weigh your options."

"Then it's pretty clear that I'm going through menopause? Are my hormones disappearing?"

"The doctor will explain all of that to you when she sees you, so don't worry, Mrs. Grimes. You have a nice weekend."

I hang up the phone. If I get in there on Monday and find out I'm dying, I'm going to strangle this bitch.


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Reading Group Guide

Everyone wants something from Marilyn Grimes. She is a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, tireless in her devotion and saintly in her self-sacrifice. But, after years of constant giving, Marilyn is ready to receive. She wants a sense of purpose; and she needs passion in her life. More than anything, Marilyn wants her self back, but she’s not sure where or how to find it.

In Terry McMillan’s new novel, The Interruption of Everything, the dilemmas of family, identity, and love loom large as seen through the lens of one woman’s midlife crisis. McMillan continues to write at the top of her game, displaying the honesty and hilarity that have won over millions of readers. McMillan’s latest heroine, Marilyn—tough and tender, good but flawed—will be familiar to any woman who has faced disappointment or heartache, who has felt she has given so much of herself there’s nearly nothing left.

With a sharp tongue and a quick pen, McMillan outlines the mountain of responsibility that is Marilyn’s life. A stale marriage, an expanding waistline, and an elderly mother are only the beginning of her concerns as Marilyn attempts to be all things to all people. Yet, as frustrated as she feels about being constantly needed, Marilyn is wrestling with a new wrinkle to her life: not being needed anymore. Her husband Leon has left to find himself in Costa Rica—perhaps with a young girlfriend in tow—and the children they raised together are busy, independent adults. Even Arthurine, her Bible-toting mother-in-law, suddenly seems fulfilled, with vacations in Vegas and a new boyfriend. Everyone is following their dream but Marilyn. She has artistic flair that would make Martha Stewart sit up and take notice, but she’s never been able to devote much time to her ideas. With an absent husband and an empty nest, will she finally have her moment of peace? Can she focus on her own goals for a change?

McMillan is too smart for simple resolutions, however; she knows life just doesn’t work that way. Mixing tragedy with comedy, she keeps Marilyn juggling, maintaining her multitasking frenzy until the last page. Between frustrations and obligations, Marilyn begins to realize that life is nothing but a series of interruptions, and that dreams are what you make of them. Ultimately, The Interruption of Everything sees midlife as the start of a new life, and so ends with a beginning; Marilyn is full of potential, and McMillan leaves it to her readers to imagine what will happen next.


Terry McMillan is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of five previous novels and recipient of the Essence Award for Excellence in Literature. She is also the author of A Day Late and a Dollar Short andWaiting to Exhale.


  • Compose a self-improvement list similar to Marilyn’s; try to include items large and small. Discuss your choices and priorities. What has kept you from accomplishing these goals?
  • Which dreams have you realized so far in your life? How did you achieve these successes? How have your goals changed as your life progresses?
  • Name the three generations of women represented in The Interruption of Everything and the concerns particular to each. What are the differences and similarities between each stage of life?
  • Men and women have different reactions to aging. Why do you believe this is? Compare the midlife stereotypes for men and for women.
  • Lovey and Arthurine demonstrate two different experiences of old age. Does either woman represent any hopes you have for your own future? Any fears? Do you recognize aspects of yourself (or your own parents) in either character?
  • Marilyn refers to her ex-husband Gordon as her soul mate, but has shared a life with her husband Leon. What are the different personality traits we associate with the idea of a soul mate as opposed to a life partner? Which traits are more desirable, and why?
  • Do you think Leon was telling the truth about Costa Rica? What was really going on with him? Was Marilyn right to let him back into her life?
  • Discuss the incidents of poverty, violence, and drug use in the novel. Why do you think the author included these scenes?
  • In the book, the characters demonstrate a broad range of approaches to the parent/child relationship. Choose the parent/child pair you find the most compelling, and then explain its strengths and weaknesses. Are there any completely “good” or “bad” relationships?
  • What does the title, The Interruption of Everything, mean to you? In what way is the novel’s ending also a beginning? What are your predictions for the next stage of Marilyn’s life?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 63 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2007

    Awesome book

    I could totally relate to Marilyn Grimes. I am a 56 year old women who has experiance many of the same things that she did, with the same ending results. When I finished the book, I missed her very much. It was like having to say good bye to a dear friend. This author has never let me down!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2011

    Ms. McMillan did not disappoint!

    Empty nest syndrome, midlife crises, the "change", family issues, loneliness, and just plain boredom creep into all of our lives at one point in time or another, but it seems that the forties are riddled with these issues. Marilyn Grimes is no different from any other woman in her forties and as we get a peak into the issues of her life, we learn that those of us who are facing the same issues are not alone. Terry McMillan creates real characters and places them in real-life situations, making the reader feel like a fly on the wall as the events of their lives unfold. I absolutely loved this page-turner. Ms. McMillan has proven that her talent just gets better with time! This book reminds me why she's my literary idol!

    Adrienne Thompson - Author of Bluesday

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    Really good and so worth reading

    I absolutely love Terry McMillan, the only "problem" with her work is that her characters make you take a look at your own life and see issues that need work and changes that you should consider. Thats not really a problem though, is it? A very good book...not to be missed. Enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    she does it again

    as expected

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    In True Terry Form!

    Thought Provoking, Riveting, Introspective, Light and Witty, I loved this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2008

    Enjoyable Read

    I am a McMillan fan and though I wouldn't rate this as one of my favorite McMillan books, I still think it was a really good novel. I enjoyed the detail & enjoyed Maryiln. I like the fact that it wasn't typical and I didn't know where the story was going, necessarily. I like the pace, though not as dramatic as one might want it still had a nice arc. The only thing, I kinda wished the family were more involved with Maryiln's tapestry, but I understand the difficulity in doing that. All in all, I think it's a great book to pick up and read at your lesisure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    It's a great read, as usual.

    It's a great read, as usual.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2007

    As Feisty as Ever.

    The plot, although very detailed, is interesting and fast moving. There are several sub-plots all held nicely together. My favourite was the one with Marilyn and her sister Joy, which became quite a tear jerker. As usual the author is full of humour and great with descriptions. At times the story was philosophical and spiritual and yet at other times it was rough and base.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    Not one of her best

    I've read most of Ms. McMillan's books and after getting used to her prose, just flew through them. This one felt like I was climbing up a mountain. The ending was not satisfying at all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2007

    horrible, horrible, horrible...

    i expected so much from this book being that mcmillan is a well known author and i was recommended this novel by a school teacher... the plot was good but she could've done way more with the story line like allow marilyn to have an affair with her ex teach her immature no good husband a lesson... marilyn had a very boring life and i hope when i reach her age i've accomplished more and am satisfied with my life more than anything... it took me a month to finish this as simple as it was and when i was done it left a sour taste in mouth for ever reading any of her novels again... seems like she lost her touch... this better not ever end up in the movies...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2006

    Disappointed, disgruntled, and dissatisfied

    What do you get when you take some psycho-babble, add a thousand clichés, and 11 doses of unbelievable (even for a work of fiction) character dialogue? I don¿t know what you get, but all I got was the INTERRUPTION of my streak of reading good books. This was horrid. How does an author like Terry McMillan `evolve¿ to this story? She doesn¿t. I cannot believe Terry McMillan wrote this book¿.her sister Roslyn maybe, but not Terry. It¿s hard to find words to describe how absolutely horrible I thought this novel was. There was no character growth, and there was too much incongruency in character development. And you would think that, as a 40-year-old woman, I would have some sympathy for Marilyn. NOT!!! Couldn¿t stand her. And what crackhead (Joy) do you know sits still long enough to watch a documentary? AND writes out a will? Come on!!! And to top it all off, how do you misspell MOREHOUSE?!?!?!? If this novel is indicative of things to come, I can guarantee that this will be the last Terry McMillan book I ever purchase or read. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown...AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006



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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    The world has changed... Can we change with it?

    This story was flat & it became too much of the same old story line ... woman bored with life & husband troubles. C'mon where's the creativity? I was expecting something with a little substance, perhaps some mystery, or just some food-for-thought, that would provide me with a lesson in life. I thought this book would keep me reading & wanting more. We've all read these type of stories and it's quite boring when you know the ending before you get there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2006

    Waiting for the Excitment

    Because I enjoy reading and always hopeful for a climax in a book I continued reading 'Interruption of Everything'. Personally, it took too long to get to the point. As soon as I spotted some excitment (Marilyn getting pregnant) I was again stuck in this tunnel of boredom. All in all it was a good read if you are patient. The storyline turned out to be a decent one, but just not outstanding.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2006

    Boring and Sedate

    There was no rising action or climactic moments in this book. It was so sedate and conversational that I was thoroughly bored. I did finish it because I felt that something extraordinary would happen, however, nothing ever did. This book droned on and on. The conversations were so boring, the characters are boring. The best storyline was with Arthurine and Prezelle, and they are senior citizens. Also, Joy would've made an awesome main character. I don't get the title. I don't see 'what' interrupted 'everything'. There was nothing to interrupt. Sorry, Terri. This one really reeks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    Couldn't put it down!

    I loved this book because it is so 'real-life', with a wonderful, witty sense of bittersweet humor. Any woman over 35 or 40 will be able to relate to the main character, Marilyn, and the issues she faces in her life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    I was not impressed

    The most thrilling part of this book was knowing I didn't purchase it! Page after page of dribble is the best I can explain. I was so determined to finish in hopes that at some point things would errupt, explode, peak or climax, but nothing. I think I've read my last TerryMac for quite sometime. Sorry 'T,' this was not the one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    True to life

    As a loyal fan and fellow writer, I understand the emotions of these characters. Terry has been a role model for me and I'm sure thousands of others. Terry Mcmillian is phenominal and courageous. Love her books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2005

    This one didn't hit the spot.

    Terri is one of my favorite authors and I have read each and every one of her novels. However, this one didn't do it for me. I was hoping it would improve as I went along but it just didn't. However, I will always be one of her faithful supporter so I am waiting for her next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Sister to Sister Book Club

    The book club thought the book was interesting,easy to read and relate too. We did not enjoy it as much as her other books. There were tons of issues/topics to discuss and the book club discussed each one, i.e. midlife crisis, menopause, in-laws and marriage.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews

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