The latest release from the otherwise strong, spirited Terry McMillan is the stuff that afternoon movies are made of--the sort that come on right after the recent talk shows that have featured the author discussing her bitter divorce from Jonathan Plummer (her Jamaican love that, well, gave her that groove back and then apparently took it away again when, as she told Newsweek, he confessed his homosexuality and abused her finances). And it's a shame, because we want to support this example of female literary power in her time of need.
After Waiting, McMillan became a bit like Ms. Thang incarnate. She was strong. She was funny. She was flawed but looked flawless. In short, we believed all those characters were some part of her. That's what makes an audience not only identify with a book but with the writer as well. With Interruption, McMillan loses us as main character Marilyn Grimes loses it. The middle-aged wife and mother of three grown children realizes she needs to take some time for herself, remember all those goals she had way back when and maybe rediscover what she ever saw in her husband while she's at it.
Here's the thing: That may work for about one out of every five people. Five out of every five realize at some point they're not where they want to be, who they want to be and they've forgotten what they came for. But unless we're in the self-help section, we don't want to read about it. It's too close to home, and it's way, way, way too messy. McMillan tries to temper the tragedy (unexpected pregnancy, death, suspected infidelity, perimenopause and more) with one-liners, witty banter and other quips, but it's too scattered. Maybe that means it's phenomenal--you know, the whole "gritty life on the page" take--but compared to McMillan's other works, it's a rough draft.
The characters aren't even as finely developed as in other efforts. Marilyn's mother-in-law Arthurine is really the only person, aside from Marilyn, of whom the reader gets a real view. Friends Bunny and Paulette are too scripted, lacking realistic interaction with Marilyn or one another. In fact, the best chapter overall is the first, and that sets the reader up for one hell of a drop-off. Sure, we want the upsetting and realistic issues, but it's the over-the-top, well-developed characters that balance it out. They provide just enough fiction for the depressed reader to make it through to the end without too many parallels.
And it's not that Interruption has too many parallels; there are just too many for one character. Break them up. Let everyone join in the misery. We like the team efforts. The difference with this particular book is that we don't think this one is really for the reader. This one might be just for McMillan. According to Newsweek, the book was finished before any confessions by Plummer. But what about instinct? As we were reading, we felt something was lacking in the book. Perhaps she did, too. Maybe art really does reflect life.