By Hayleigh Sol
★ ★ ★ ★ 4 STARS
Triggers: abuse; dosmestic violence; verbal abuse
So, I heard a lot about this author, mostly through GoodReads. She's considered one of those authors you read if you like Dorothy Koomson, which I do, and has/is becoming a big name in the Women's Fiction(or Chick-Lit) genre. So, when I managed to find one of her books, I was excited.
This book follows three different women--Jane (a younger, single mother), Madeline (a woman who has three children, one with her former husband/sig. other, and two with her current husband), and Celeste (a woman who is going through a difficult/abusive relationship with her spouse).
I did like a lot about this book. It kept me interested and it kept reading, trying to figure out each little mystery or tale that was going on. So, that was going on. It was well written. I did, for the most part, like a lot of the characters.
I would say that I did have a few problems with this book. One, there was the use of the racial slur g**sy. It was used to describe the entire one of the character's was wearing (Bonnie, Madeline's ex-husband's new wife) and it was used to imply that she looked tacky and was gaudy. Yeah, did not like that.
Bonnie kind of came across as the stereotypical White Feminist, and at first, I was thinking that was why Madeline didn't like her. Bonnie constantly talked about yoga and just kind of had the presence of someone who claimed to be Feminist but wasn't looking at forms of Feminism, if that makes sense. However, you found later that Madeline just kind of hates Bonnie due to her personality. And while there is a mention of whiteness and privilege, it's not done in a way to say "Hey, this isn't right; here's why.". It was more so to talk about Bonnie briefly and then used to describe Madeline's eldest daughter who believed that she was the "only voice for these young girls". (The young girls beings girls of color. So...yeah). That also didn't sit right with me.
I also kind of felt like the stuff with a certain character was queer-baiting. Basically, it's the whole "one of the characters falls in love with someone or is attracted to someone but it's not to because they're gay. But surprise! They're straight". While I DO find the couple in question cute together, I think that could've been handled better. That character could've just have been bisexual or pansexual. Or there could have been some explanation for him dating a man/having a boyfriend and wanting to be with the one of the female characters without having to do the "he's gay; wait, no he isn't" tactic.
Those were the things that kind of messed with me a lot with and were the main problems I had with it. Other than that, while I wouldn't necessarily say it was a "fun" book to read due to some of the issues, I will say that it was enjoyable. The characters were interesting and did seem real to me. I do like the way it was told and how it was written. The chapters were relatively short but there were a lot of them. So, that was something I did like.
I don't know what else to really say about this book honestly. It kept me interested and wanting to keep reading. I really did like it, and I do want to read more from this author when I can.
Usually I'm a big Amy Tan fan but this book was a huge miss with me. While the stylist writing was occasionally a reason, it was more so due to the relationship(or lack thereof) between Olivia and Kwan.
Olivia treated Kwan horribly. While I understand that accepting the fact that your father has another child from a marriage that took place before he met your mother, especially when you're already the least favorite child, it hard to accept. I don't feel that justifies a lot of the stuff that Olivia did to Kwan. Olivia, even into adulthood, was kind of terrible to her.
Kwan, on the other hand, pretty much accepted all of Olivia's treatment. I wasn't really sure if this was because she saw Olivia as her sister and that bond between them was just that strong, or because she felt that she owed her in some way or another.
Fantasy and history play part into this book. Mostly in the form of ghosts/ghost-viewing/viewing past lives. Sometimes it was hard to tell when a character was still alive(and the characters were speaking to the actual person)or if they were dead(and talking to their ghost). For the most part, the transitions from present to past were smooth but there were a few times that the switch was hard to pin-point. For example, some of the chapters started in Olivia's perspective, switched to Kwan's, and then to the past character. It would take a minute to figure this out.
Again, I'm usually a huge Tan fan but this particular was a miss with me.
Okay, yes, I know, I normally wait a day after I finish a book before I start reviewing it. But I'm going to change that now because I usually have fresher and better stuff on my mind the day I review it.
Okay. So, as a woman, especially a black American woman, Waiting to Exhale was one of those things that I was mentioned often. In most cases, it was referencing the movie. But still. Whether it was the car burning scene or the scene where Glora meets her new neighbor. This book/movie was sometimes treated like a staple. And to say you didn't at least know a little bit about it kind of results in shock and awe from a lot of people. So, when I came across this book, I had to pick it up.
I can't believe I'm saying this but I think this is one of the few cases where the movie is better than the book, and I know that sounds strange. But it's true. Don't get me wrong, the book was written and the characters felt good, and I even related them to them a lot. There was some stuff in there that made me....ragey. Including one part that I, for a moment, considering DNF-ing it.
So, this book follows four women: Savannah, Robin, Gloria, and Bernadine. Each of these characters were different and alike in ways. They all had different careers, goals for their relationships, whether or not they were actively searching for that relationship, and even how they reached the point of being single (again) and being in this position of waiting to exhale. Savannah, Robin, and Gloria, basically, all start off single themselves. Bernadine, however, wasn't single; she was married, and at the start of the novel, her husband informs her that he's leaving her for his mistress.
And the book essentially follows all of them as they try to either find love (again) or deal with everything going on in their lives surround their respective families.
I don't really have a favorite character, more like, I did like them all, though I admit there's a bit of lean toward Savannah and Gloria, but the one that made me the most ragey was probably Bernadine. I've never personally been through a divorce in the sense that I'm one of the people getting divorced. So, maybe I don't know what divorce feels like that angle or perspective. I'll take that. However, there was some stuff she did that just... As I stated earlier in some of my posts about this book, she seemed more upset at the fact that the woman her husband was leaving her for was white more so than the fact he was leaving her. I did understand her rage at that because, some people hold this idea or thought that being a POC and having a white spouse is a "true" sign of upward mobility. So, yes, that is a really, really good reason to be mad. However, it felt like she was directing a lot of her anger toward the mistress rather than her husband, if that makes sense. And that's the part I didn't really like. And I mean she was mad at her husband, but still though.
Another thing that made me ragey was a part where Bernie was kind of encouraging Savannah to date a married man, and there was even a part where she herself was with another person's husband. I'm not going to necessarily condemn cheaters, because I don't think that's right. At the same time, I don't think that's okay either. And while I understand her reason for saying it, and it probably coming from a place of anger, it still made me kind of mad but of all the things, it made me the least ragey.
Now for the thing that made me the most ragey. There's a scene where Bernadine's kids come back from staying with her ex-husband, and one of them, her daughter and the younger of the two I think, explains that their dad had gotten married and he and his new wife are having a baby. The kid does this with excitement. Which causes Bernie to storm off and go to her room. Now, at this point, her kids did understand divorce but I guess they were handling it in different ways. So, Bernie goes to her room. The other kid, her son, slaps the kid who told her, her daughter, and calls her a b*tch, and says she talks too much and tells her to sit down on the couch (and has repeat "I talk too much" five hundred time or something). Bernie heard and even saw this whole exchange. Now, I thought, "Okay, she's going to go out there and doing something about that.". Nope! She walked back into her room, and was even agreeing with her son and laughed at it. And was like she was glad that at least one of her kids was on her side. Are you kidding me?! That is just no, no, no, no! And then it goes a bit forward, and I thought okay, maybe now she'll apologize or say something or do something. But again, nope. Just....UGH! ARGH!
There was some body shaming from the other characters toward Gloria, most prominently from Robin. That I kind of didn't like. And there was the "I like my women big" kind of thing from her love interest. Which I admit I kind of shift between "aww that's cute" and "okay?"/"phrase that better" (because of the whole sexualization of a body type thing).
I saw very little slut-shaming I think. Which I liked. So, that made me happy. But there was a dismissive attitude toward Robin and her dating now and then. They called each other "b*tch" a lot. Like a lot. I get it that it was out of "friendship" or whatever, but it was still very excessive.
But even with it all its issues, I did still like Waiting to Exhale. There were some parts that really made me angry, and some I was kind o.O about. But I did like it, and I thought it was well written. The characters were three dimensional and well developed. They made choices I didn't necessarily agree with. However, the whole story and how they changed kind of made up for some of it, not all of it. But I'm glad I got it.
So, I'm a huge Amy Tan fan, and I have been looking forward to this since it first got released. And I know, I know, usually when you look forward to a book, that's exactly when it disappoints you. Surprisingly, this one didn't! It was amazing. It covers a topic that Tan covers in most, if not all of her novels, the mother-daughter relationship and how the events that shape both the lives of the mother and daughter, both apart and together, influence it. Naturally, the book covers a good portion of their lives, including their personal and romantic relationships, i.e., from good one to bad ones to worse ones. There were a few things I didn't like but that was more so due to the characters than the actual writing. I didn't like how the mother, Lulu/Lucretia, who is white, viewed the father, who is Chinese, Lu Shing, when they first met. She kept talking about him as her "emperor" and all of this other stuff; it just all kind of made me uncomfortable to be quite honest. I mean I suppose I understand why it was there in a way, but at the same time, it also made me really uncomfortable. So, for me, that's the only issue/flaw with it. Other than that, it was written well and I really liked it.