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Amazon Synopsis: “When Who Asked You? begins, Trinetta leaves her two young sons with her mother, Betty Jean, and promptly disappears. BJ already has her hands full dealing with her other adult children, two opinionated sisters, an ill husband, and her own postponed dreams—all the while holding down a job delivering room service at a hotel.
Her son Dexter is about to be paroled from prison; Quentin, the family success, can’t be bothered to lend a hand; and taking care of two lively grandsons is the last thing BJ thinks she needs. But who asked her?”
Length and medium: 10 hours, audiobook
My mom has always been a Terry McMillan fan. I’ve seen How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale but haven’t read the books. This book was one of the featured audiobooks on Hoopla and I figured it was a good one to start with.
This one family tackles so many controversial issues. Drugs, prison, Uncle Tom-ing, Alzheimer’s, coming out to your family, and cheating. There is nothing this book hid from. As I write this, it feels like a lot but as I listened to the book, it didn’t feel overwhelming or even like she was trying to cover all her bases.
The narration switches each chapter to a different character. I liked being able to understand each character better that way and recognize their struggles, what they felt like was holding them back, and how they overcame. The rotating narration also kept a steady pace for the story as different characters had events happen in their life to further their plot. McMillan was able to cut out filler chapters by switching characters.
There were a lot of characters and each had their good and bad but I think my favorite was Betty Jean’s grandson, Luther. He grows up in the span of the book and I feel like I probably relate the most to him because he is wise beyond his years. This kid dispenses the honest truth as he sees it. The world is simple and clear for him and I love that.
I found Betty Jean’s situation the most interesting though. That could be because the story starts with her or because she is supposed to be the main character. Dealing with her husband’s early onset Alzheimer’s and taking in her grandsons can’t be easy in her 50s but she does what needs to be done for her family. She’s not afraid to ask for help but she also doesn’t beg or force people to help her. Betty Jean is a very strong role model and you can see Luther recognizing the strength his grandmother requires just to keep everyone healthy and fed.
With everyone struggling through their own problems, I like that in time they each found their way out of their problems. It never felt like anyone was throwing a pity party, by the end of it anyway. The beginning it felt like most characters complained about their circumstance but eventually came to realize they could make a change.
If you’re interested in the book, click here.
Terry McMillan has eleven novels out. Four have been made into movies, two blockbusters and two made-for-tv. She’s a pretty popular name in African-American literature. I’m still on the fence about going back to read Waiting to Exhale. I love the movie though.