For over 30 years, Terry McMillan has delighted readers with tales of the lives, loves, foibles and triumphs of black women. She continues with the hilarious, poignant and bighearted It’s Not All Downhill From Here.
McMillan claims she writes about things that break her heart, but she clearly also writes about what makes her laugh or shake her head in gentle bemusement. In her latest novel, the narrator and star of the show is Loretha Curry, who is turning 68 (the same age as the author!). The owner of a successful beauty product business, Loretha is rich both monetarily and in most of her relationships. Her third husband, Carl, is doting and, despite his arthritis, ready, willing and able when he takes his little blue pill. Loretha has a fiercely loyal posse of girlfriends she’s known for decades, including statuesque Korynthia, mean-spirited Lucky, sort of God-fearing Sadie and long-suffering Poochie, a character as close to Beth March as you’re going to get in a McMillan novel. Loretha’s mother is still alive and a corker. Her granddaughter Cinnamon adores her, as does her son, Jackson, who lives in Tokyo with his wife and two girls. Loretha, generous with both her love and her money, adores them right back.
Yet there’s that heartbreak. An early tragedy in the book sends Loretha reeling, though her loved ones rally around her. Relations with her twin half-sister are sketchy, and her daughter is anchorless and an alcoholic. Loretha, who’s a bit hefty and loves her soul food, finds out she has diabetes.
McMillan has no trouble creating a crowd-pleaser—even her “unlikable” women redeem themselves in the end—but she also promotes radical self-love for her characters, whether it’s through taking care of their bodies, minds and spirits, deciding who to love or deciding, indeed, whether to live at all. This is another winner from McMillan.