In her new novel, McMillan brings back the fabulous women from Waiting to Exhale, fifteen years after their New Year’s Eve toast to the future in the moonlit desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Just like the first time we met them, Robin, Savannah, Gloria and Bernadine are still struggling with the men in their lives, compounded by near-grown children and the demands of a half-century of life. Happily, none has lost the ability to shock, laugh or cry.
Bernadine has been burned in her second marriage, lost in a big house; Savannah is bored with her man; Gloria looks forward to celebrating an anniversary with Marvin while putting up with a demanding daughter-in-law; and single Robin is raising a teenager on her own. The almost-golden years have not been smooth, each woman overcome with the emotional baggage of wrong choices and the surprises life always holds in store for those of us who think we are safe.
Without missing a beat, McMillan writes these women seamlessly into the next phase of their lives, the ever more complicated problems of family and ex-husbands, the painful realities of divorce and the prospect of living alone. Each copes in her own way, but it is the strength of their friendship that carries them through the worst losses and the long recovery of emotional balance. Forced to reinvent themselves, each gets temporarily mired in the past, clinging to the old in fear of the new.
These are dynamic women - off-track maybe, but certainly capable of moving on from grief and disappointment. And what is friendship for if not to push and pull the reluctant into making lemonade from lemons? In fact, the charm of both Waiting to Exhale and Getting to Happy lies in the energy and passion of McMillan’s characters, who share a strong commitment to family and friendship that is both demanding and forgiving. Irrepressible, each woman faces her private demons and sorrows, secure in the knowledge that she is not alone.
The passages of life are always challenging, often daunting, but this author propels her characters through the darkest valleys only to emerge, laughing, in the bright Phoenix sun. Reinvention is tough, but who could doubt that these four friends will drag one another to the finish line, from broken hearts and mid-life crises to their generous response to the tragedy of Katrina? Life goes on, but so do Savannah, Robin, Bernadine and Gloria, hand in hand, dancing the Electric Slide.