Terry McMillan - How Stella Got Her Groove Back

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How Stella Got Her Groove Back: Maybe Stella Has Terry's Groove

Dec 10, 2000 (Updated Nov 30, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:some parts ring true of a woman searching for meaning

Cons:long, self-serving stream of consciousness, plot gives up after the first ⅓

The Bottom Line: The Bottom Line tossed this book in the trash heap a long time ago.


I ordered How Stella Got Her Groove Back from Amazon during one of their closeout sales. I love picking up hardcovers on the cheap, and had really enjoyed Waiting to Exhale and figured that I couldn't go wrong.

Yeah, right. I'm trying to determine if I am more disappointed because this is the first entire book I was able to read since my daughter was born, or because it seems like Terry McMillan tossed this one off merely to make money off the publicity for Waiting to Exhale.

::: Losing Her Groove :::

If you've read McMillan before, you know that she tends to write in very long streams of character "thoughts" but How Stella Got Her Groove Back really is over the top. The majority of the book is Stella's own stream of consciousness self-debate, and to be honest, the character is so thinly drawn that you just don't CARE what she's thinking.

When we first meet Stella, she is on vacation from work, and her young son is spending time with his father, from whom Stella is divorced. Stella decides to try to breathe some excitement back into her life, so she takes a spur-of-the-moment trip to Jamaica, where she meets up with and becomes involved with 20-year-old chef-apprentice Winston. (Who is played in the movie version by the yummy Taye Diggs!)

When Stella returns from Jamaica, she finds that her life is not as she had left it, due to events that took place while she was away, as well as because of the impact of her new relationship with a man less than half her age. From here, the book deteriorates, although the first signs that this book was heading south were evident in a page-and-a-half long section where Stella is thinking about McMillan's own Waiting to Exhale while deciding which book to read in Jamaica. Too coy for words, that section sets the tone for the reader that McMillan knows that YOU know who she is, and you get the feeling she wants you to accept the book just because she wrote it.

::: Paling in Comparison :::

From the moment Stella returns from Jamaica, you get the feeling that McMillan ended the book when Stella got on the plane home and just needs to fill up a few hundred more pages to please her editor. What's worse is that there was such GREAT possibility here to explore the concept of a middle-aged woman looking for a new direction in life. Unfortunately, the only directions McMillan gives Stella relate to finding happiness in a man. Where Waiting to Exhale was a detailed study of women that used their relationships with men to view their internal compasses, How Stella Got Her Groove Back was a surface level story that didn't quite succeed at reversing the usual stereotype of older man and young, comely woman.


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