The Interruption of Everything


The Interruption of Everything is a haphazard jumble sale of a novel. Between the gaudy midlife crises of upper-middle-class, perimenopausal wife and mother Marilyn Grimes, her noisy extended family, and her wiseacre girlfriends who meet regularly for the kind of snappy pity parties that photograph so well in movie adaptations, Terry McMillan puts a buy-in-bulk price on just about every issue a modern woman might face in a year’s subscription to Redbook. That includes the agony of increased body fat, unsatisfying husbands, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and aging parents who show symptoms of Alzheimer’s, as well as the ecstasy of the home-decorating craze known as crafting. McMillan the positive thinker endorses yoga for stress relief, physical exercise for cardiovascular health, and educational courses that free the artist within, while McMillan the distracted author wanders from character to chandelier-making tip with forced bonhomie.

Not that Marilyn’s discontents aren’t serious, or noteworthy; they’re both, especially the latter. For a population of female baby boomers now classifiable as hens rather than chicks, the challenges (and, as glib gurus put it, the opportunities) of midlife womanhood are of utmost literary interest, whether in soothing self-help books or diversionary fiction. And McMillan, who created a trend-setting genre of warmhearted, fast-moving African-American Sister Lit with 1992’s Waiting to Exhale, craftily adapts some of the universal plaints of her sex in middle age to particular aspects of the African-American experience.

That experience, though, is primarily represented by Marilyn’s sister — a strung-out drug addict and neglectful mother, kicked around by the author solely to season the heroine’s fortunate life with tragedy — and by her mother-in-law, a caricature of a garrulous church lady out of a Tyler Perry production. (As for Marilyn’s husband — well, it’s always difficult to locate the real in a McMillan man, whether lout or lover.) Really, what Marilyn wants to do is talk about beads and glue guns; everything else is an interruption.

The Interruption of Everything
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