“Getting to Happy”: Not Really a Review

So, I work at a bookstore. I have endless access to all things Roxane Gay, Napoleon Hill, Harry Potter, and the beloved work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, my current literary hero. Anytime I know anything black will be hitting stores, I stalk them until they’re scanned into our inventory. Courtesy of my job, I was also able to snag an advanced copy of Samantha Irby’s recent compilation of essays We are never meeting in real life. No, I won’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on books since I’ve started working here. Mostly, I’ve just lost track.

Okay, now for the reason I need this talk. A customer possibly asked for a Terry McMillan book and then I happened to glance past Getting to Happy and it was noted as a sequel to Waiting to Exhale. Now, the movie adaption of the book is one of my favorite movies, like ever. It’s one of those good black movies where you watch it over and over again because you are so in love with the characters and are so invested in their stories that you don’t mind reliving the emotions you felt while taking the movie in the first 10 times. (Other good black movies of this nature: Love and Basketball, Lean on Me, Sister Act, etc. One day maybe I’ll talk about how the first time I watched Set It Off, I cried so much throughout the whole damn movie I almost needed a freaking nap).

So anyway, I see the book sequel and I’m like oh nah, I’ve gotta read this. Bout to link up with Savannah and the crew again. Lit. Black people love reunions. I order the book to my store. So I’m stealing some reading time at my job trying to figure out if the book is worth my $9.99 investment (minus my discount of course). 1st 30 pages pass my test. When McMillan updates us on Savannah’s “loveless” marriage, I’m like sad but not surprised. Robin’s twisted story of motherhood also seems like a reasonable follow up to what transpired the last time we saw her in the movie. But then we get to Bernadine’s life and I’m like damn, we didn’t kill off Angela Bassett’s spirits enough in the movie? Basically, she marries Wesley Snipes’ character and homeboy turns out to be a fraud. His dying white wife was a scam, he had a whole other living black wife, and he’d been robbing Bernadine blind AF. But even still, I’m not even completely devastated. Then we get to Gloria’s ole plump happy life with her red hubby with whom she is making tedious anniversary night preparations. Now, I’m not new at this reading stuff. I know freaking fore shadowing when I see it. Gloria kept talking too much about “when he gets home” and when the damn cops rang the bell I was ready to toss the book. It only took 77 pages for the tears to finally hit my eyes and it started a whole thought process:

I’m tired of these resilience stories. Why do we always have aching hearts? It’s like we’re always written struggling to just get to peace.

I understand that I’m being dramatic, but this is what I do. Analyze and over analyze. I completely invest myself in books and creative works. I think about them long after my initial involvement. And that’s part of good writing. So I’m not against feeling these ways. But to be honest, this book just felt cruel.

I seriously started thinking about why I was so triggered. I just really feel like they shouldn’t have had to live the same trauma twice, 10-15 years later. And at 50 years of age? Then I realized that I’m tired of reading the strong black woman. I’m tired of reading resilience. I’m tired of reading black woman recovery. I’m tired of reading my bleak black reality on the pages of someone’s book. My black womanness was at peak self-awareness reading through the reintroduction to these women’s lives.

Also, right before I posted this, I read some of the reviews on Goodreads, confirmed that I’m not exactly crazy, and felt more comfortable posting this afterward. IDK, what do you think? Am I being dramatic? Sensitive? Just triggered? For now, I know it’s not emotionally safe for me to continue reading right now lol




11 thoughts on ““Getting to Happy”: Not Really a Review

  1. I read this a long time ago and if I’m remembering correctly I sort of felt like you did… didn’t they “exhale” in the first book? Thought I was going to be reading something a little more uplifting…. but I’ll have to read it again I read this a few years ago!

  2. To be fair, most books make the MCs life a living hell to make it interesting and to get you emotionally involved. With that said, I definitely don’t think you’re “crazy” in what you feel or notice because it’s so true. These are things I really never noticed before but black women seem to fall under the “best friend with attitude” category or “strong even though she’s in pain” one. I think writers need readers to point this out. Doesn’t mean their books are bad; people are just sick of seeing the same things and being portrayed this way. Black women aren’t always living in despair. We aren’t strong all the time, we’re human. Show us as that.

    Nice read! ^_^

    • Exactly my thoughts! I wouldn’t say the writing was “bad”. Altho she did use some cringeworthy tactics like the shameless pop culture plugs that got to be a bit much. But I didn’t have much issue with how she wrote. Just what she wrote. I was just like nahhh not this again lol I was like no i need to unsee these words

    • I actually used to when I was younger. But academia has steered me away from the fun. I actually had a professor this semester who hated my writing style, but it was a history class so ehhh. But my style has worked for my discipline. Every time I think of trying to do a story at this point anxiety floods in lol

  3. I completely feel you. This is such a marked, unique emotion. That tired, resigned empathy we feel as we read about yet another ‘strong black woman’s’ unfathomable trials and travails is so real, thank you for solidifying it and making it real for me with this post.

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