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Terry Mcmillan’S Favorite Summer Reads

Terry Mcmillan’s Favorite Summer Reads

The Author Of Waiting To Exhale Nd How Stella Got Her Groove Back Tells Us What We Should Read Next

Terry McMillan is a seasoned novelist with a number of bestsellers—including Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, both of which had film adaptations that were box office smashes—but the experience of publishing her most recent book was a new one.

That novel, It’s Not All Downhill From Here, came out on March 31, 2020—right after nationwide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To her disappointment, McMillan had to cancel plans for a book tour and other appearances, and couldn’t interact with her fans. “It was definitely a learning experience about how lives can change, without us having anything to do with it,” McMillan says.

Terry Mcmillan

The book, too, is about unexpected change: The world of protagonist Loretha Curry, 68, is upended by a sudden loss. For McMillan, who is 69, it was important to show that aging does not have to mean losing one’s lust for life.

“I don’t feel old. I’m still having so much fun, and life is still interesting, and there’s a lot to look forward to—including the present moment,” she says. “You can’t worry about how things are going to end. Enjoy what you’re doing right now!” Key to enjoying the present, for McMillan, is accepting what you can and can’t control. It’s no coincidence that the novel she’s currently writing, which she began during the pandemic, will be called Safety.

“Being isolated makes you think about things you hadn’t paid as much attention to. That’s when I started feeling I had more control. You’re either going to suffer or going to survive, and I chose to survive,” she says. “To some extent it’s comforting that we’re all in this together.” McMillan is hopeful about the months to come, and hope will be a prominent theme of her new book. While readers wait eagerly for its publication, they can turn to her recommended summer reads.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan

“I love any book by him, and I love his characters, because they’re real and what they go through is inspiring. This one is about an older woman who lost her husband. It sounds depressing, but it’s not. She’s kind of a pistol. O’Nan’s language is so rich. The way he writes about these women, as a man—I don’t know how he does it!”

Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

“My son gave me this one. It’s about Black women who have been goody-two-shoes their whole lives, and decide they’re going to kick up their heels a little bit. I don’t think it’s sacrilegious at all. People have dreams and fantasies, and it’s nice to know about when they take risks.”

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

“This takes place at a restaurant, and the main characters are a group of women who call themselves the Supremes. I have little Post-its marking pages throughout the book. I love it when men write about women—sometimes they understand more than we think. Years ago I wrote a book from a male’s point of view, but I don’t think they’re all that complicated.”

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
Best American Short Stories

Best American Short Stories

“This anthology is published each year and features great new writers. Some people don’t respect the value of short stories. A short story is usually a moment in time, and it’s not meant to solve everything. It’s meant to have you travel emotionally to a point where whatever a character was going through reaches a clearing. It’s almost more powerful than some novels. They capture a single emotion, a single moment. A lot of us as readers tend to overlook those moments.”

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