Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan, like all of her previous works, gives an accurate portrayal of issues that everyday people are experiencing EVERY DAY. The characters in this novel could be anyone that we know, heck, they could be us. The aging spouse with Alzheimer’s (it may have been Dementia, it seemed to have changed towards the end), the grandmother stuck raising her grand-kids, the child on drugs, the child in and out of jail, and much more. While facing all these unexpected problems there is never a missed opportunity for someone to share how they could have done it better, or avoided the situation altogether.
The main character is Betty Jean; like so many people, life has seemingly passed her by. At the moment she decides she wants more, better, different, that’s when life happens. She is in her fifties caring for her ailing husband who she is not sure she ever loved. As the story opens her biggest decision is whether to stand strong and care for him until the end; or follow the advice of others who think it’s best to place him in a home. The story progresses just as life does and before she knows it her house is overrun with two abandoned grandsons and a son fresh out of prison…again.
McMillan is one of the best when it comes to writing true-to-life fiction. However, I found myself wanting to hate this book. It spoke to so many emotions. My father was diagnosed with Dementia and eventually passed, so it bothered me that Lee David rarely if ever left his darkened bedroom. At times he seemed an afterthought. Trinetta, Betty Jean’s daughter whose love for drugs far outweighed her love for her children had me so angry. But Betty Jean’s reaction to her daughter I felt is systematic to why the number of grandparents raising grandchildren is increasing by record numbers. Tammy, the best friend, is just what we all need…a co-conspirator to our questionable decisions. That person who never challenges our decisions because their own are just as bad. But this is what I love most about McMillan’s writing, it forces us to think about real stuff.
Who Asked You? is one of those novels that will have the reader exploring their true feelings about social issues. It will have you asking yourself, “What would I do if this happened to me?” Most of the scenarios presented would require going through it to honestly know the answer.
There were fifteen central characters in the book, which can be a lot if not handled correctly. Although each tied neatly into the story, a few I could have done without because the main point of the story would have been accomplished with or without them.
Overall, Who Asked You? is an endearing read that exposes the harsh realities of life for many people. I received it as a review copy from the publisher, but would have purchased it the moment it hit the shelf. For those who are true die-hard Terry McMillan fans, you will enjoy her rawness and the fact that she stays true to her writing style. I would recommend Who Asked You? to anyone who enjoys good contemporary fiction.
My final rating is 3.75 stars out of 5.
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