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
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.
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.
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.
“TERRY MCMILLAN KEEPS IT REAL.…easily her most accomplished tale...by 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
“WITH HUMOR AND HEART AND HUMANITY, MCMILLAN SPEAKS TO WOMEN ON THE VERGE.” —The Hartford Courant