Cyndy Aleo's Reviews > Waiting to Exhale

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
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May 20, 11

bookshelves: women-s-fiction, favorites

Before the pap that was How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Terry McMillan wrote the brilliant Waiting to Exhale, a story of four female friends and their triumphs and failures in their relationships with men.

::: The New Musketeers :::

As the novel opens, Savannah has just quit her job to move to a new job in Phoenix, where her friend Bernadine lives, in hopes of furthering her career and moving from public relations to television producing. Bernadine herself has just found out that her husband has not only been having an affair, but is leaving her for a white woman. Bernadine's other two friends, Gloria and Robin, aren't faring much better; Gloria is struggling with her teenage son, Tarik, and Robin is up to her eyeballs in debt and involved with a philandering loser who uses her for money, Russell.

Not one of the four seems to be able to find a good man. Savannah is too picky; Gloria is too wrapped up in her hair salon and raising her son on her own; Robin picks all the wrong men; and Bernadine finds that she has given her all to a man for eleven years and lost her own identity in the process. Savannah's move to Phoenix seems to coincide with changes in all their lives, as Bernadine finds a life outside her husband (after a scene made famous in the movie where she dumps her husband's designer suits in his BMW and sets the whole thing on fire), Gloria begins to let go of her son, Robin realizes that she doesn't always need a man to be with her, and that it's better to be alone than with the wrong man just to be with someone, and Savannah learns to let go and open up a little bit.

::: All For One and One For All :::

Throughout all the ups and downs with men, some serious and some downright comical, what comes through is how important friendship between women can be, both when life is going well and when it's not. Each one of the women has something to learn from the others, be it a willingness to loosen up a little, or a need to become more responsible. Throughout it all, the friends are able to accept each other as they are, even when they disagree with life choices. All three friends know that Robin's boyfriend Russell is a no-account loser, but accept that she needs to realize that on her own, even as they vent about him to each other.

McMillan's writing makes the women's relationships as well as their experiences tangible. Every woman can relate to Savannah's horror at finding herself stuck with a clingy man who was introduced by friends, and every woman will sigh when Bernadine meets James, who may well be the perfect man aside from his wife. While the focus is on four African-American women, the friendships and experiences with men are something that any woman can relate to, even if some of the characterizations of the men they meet border on stereotype. Their relationships with men don't define their lives; they merely reflect them. This book is a must-read.

This review previously published at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Waitin...
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