Getting to Happy: A Book Review
The Sequel to Waiting to Exhale
For those who left the novel (or the movie), Waiting To Exhale, wanting to know more about the females whose stories we experienced, the wait is over. Acclaimed author, Terry McMillan has visited those ladies once again and catches us up on their lives in Getting to Happy. The novel is set 15 years later, but to readers' dismay, not much has changed. .
Re-Cap of Waiting to Exhale
Though Bernadine, Gloria, Robin and Savannah are feeling more positive about their lives at the end of Waiting to Exhale, life has blind-sided the two who seemed stronger and more together. Bernadine, whose husband left her for his White secretary in Waiting…, fell for James who (in the movie) shares his story about his dying wife and spends the night just holding her. She eventually marries him only to discover years later that his story was a lie, as is his life. James has a living wife who confronts Bernadine and sends her on a six-year downward spiral. Savannah, who in the movie, breaks off her long-term affair with a married man, has married Isaac and helps him start his own furniture making business. At the beginning of the new book, she is hugely bored with Isaac, who is in love with someone else, though she still loves him. Robin, who was considering aborting Russell’s baby and sending him back to his wife at the end of the movie, is relatively content with her life as a single mother to Sparrow, her 15 year old, very precocious daughter, though she is immensely bored with her job. The one negative for Robin is her singleness. She really wants to be married, so she signs up on six different online dating sites only to be disappointed over and over again. Big, beautiful Gloria, whose former husband was on the down-low has just met Marvin, her new neighbor, at the end of the movie. Glory and Marvin marry and make a beautiful life together, only to have their dream-life shattered at the beginning of the sequel.
Significance of the Title
Getting to Happy is well titled since most of the novel details the characters’ struggle to find happiness after so many years of mostly working at their careers, becoming financially successful but settling in their relationships. They have hit 50 and finally realize they want more than career success. The first step toward focusing on themselves and their relationships is starting "Blockbuster night" again, where the ladies meet to catch up on each other’s lives and watch a monthly movie (boot-legged) together. The banter between them is often catty but loving. They give each other advice that can come only because they know each other so well and care so much about each other. But in the end, each woman chooses her own way and is getting to happy the best way she can.
Still Striving for Happiness at the End of the Novel
Readers don't have to go back and re-read Waiting to Exhale in order to enjoy Getting to Happy, but those who know the background, will probably enjoy the book a tiny bit more. Because we have a history with these ladies and because each woman has a distinct personality, we connect with them immediately. That’s the upside. The downside is that the novel is almost over when the characters finally work through their drama and make the decisions that will start them on their way to happiness. Only Bernadine is actually happy when the novel closes. She has spent a month in re-hab for her dependency on pills, started practicing meditation and yoga and has forgiven James, her bigamous ex-husband. She is trying to teach these skills to her friends, who, though they complain, are open to the idea that meditation might bring a positive change to their lives. Readers sense that each character has made a big enough life-altering decision that she just might find happiness after the 373 pages of Getting to Happy. Hmmm... Terry McMillan may have the makings of a "threequil" on her hands.