Bestselling author Terry McMillan unveils new novel
Perhaps the hardest thing to invent — or, more accurately, reinvent — is yourself. For nearly everyone there comes a day when you look at yourself and say, “Is that it? There must be more.”
Georgia Young finds herself in that very position in Terry McMillan’s new novel, I Almost Forgot About You, and she embarks on a wholesale personal, professional and financial makeover. The book debuts on Tuesday, June 7, the very day McMillan will visit Wilton Library to give a reading, talk, answer questions and sign copies. Fans will know her as the author of bestsellers like Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, A Day Late and A Dollar Short, and The Interruption of Everything. There is no charge for the event, which begins at 7 p.m., and registration is highly recommended. Call 203-762-6334 or go online to www.wiltonlibrary.org.
I Almost Forgot About You deals with a gamut of emotions from love, hate and forgiveness to boredom, restlessness and courage. Twice divorced, Georgia has a successful, albeit boring, career as an optometrist. With two adult daughters out in the world, she lives alone.
Speaking from her home in California last week, McMillan said she decided to write about women facing changes and challenges after thinking about women she knows. “They are smart professionals, successful, they’ve proven to themselves and perhaps to the world and they realize this isn’t as thrilling or fulfilling as I thought it would be.” She thought about what it would feel like to “change lanes, when on the outside it all looks perfect and inside you’re just bored. … It’s not too late at 45, 50 or 60 to do something different.”
One day at work, Georgia learns that a man she loved in college, but fell out of contact with, has died. It makes her take a good look at her life and she decides she will sell her house and her share of her practice and change professions, to what she is not sure.
McMillan admitted she’s always wanted to live in a foreign country, and that triggered Georgia’s response to uproot herself and take a cross-country train adventure. Like McMillan, Georgia is unencumbered. Why not?
But Georgia decides something else as well. She will look up every man she ever loved — seven or so — to let them know she was glad she had the opportunity to know and love them. Her friends think she is nuts, and she holds firm until her first husband, Michael, moves to town.
He asks to see her and this throws her off-balance, but she agrees. Even though she is still very angry with him for cheating on her, thus precipitating their divorce, she manages to find things she’s grateful for that came from their relationship.
Asked how Georgia managed to do that, McMillan said, “She got tired of hating him. It wore her out.”
McMillan recalled her own marriage to Jonathan Plummer that ended in divorce after he disclosed he was gay.
“For three years I was almost apoplectic,” she said recalling the relationship that ended in 2005. “I was so angry people didn’t even know me anymore. All I talked about was how I hated him.
“After a while I realized I was boring myself and wearing myself out. And what was he doing? Probably looking for a boyfriend, having the time of his life. He wasn’t thinking about me.
“Anger is a termite,” she said. “It’s being eaten alive emotionally. I’m not giving any man this much power over my life.”
Eventually — after a lawsuit which she won — the two of them managed to become friends. “I basically forgave him,” she said. “There’s a saying about forgiveness. If you don’t forgive you’re the one who suffers. … It’s liberating,” she continued. “All of a sudden I felt 100 pounds lighter.
“That’s was the point of Georgia telling Michael, ‘yeah, I hated your guts, but let me tell you the good things you gave me.’”
After having a string of supremely successful books, McMillan, 64, said she’s very excited about this one. “My last book [Who Asked You?] sold but it didn’t generate as much excitement as this one. I’m really surprised and pleased.
“Most of what I write — I hate that term chick lit, they don’t call it man lit — as if writing about our emotional makeup right now is something we should not address. It’s insulting and I find it sexist.”
McMillan said not all of her books are about trying to find a boyfriend, “and even if they were so what?” she said. “Everybody in this world wants to be loved. The impact a person can have on your life can be devastating or exhilarating. What’s wrong with looking at how people get through it?
“That’s what we do one day to the next. Everybody I know that’s been in love, you are wired for sound. The sky looks blue even when it’s raining. When your heart is breaking or you’re just bored or lonely, you don’t feel that way. I find that valid and I don’t apologize at all.”