Loretha Curry’s life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise her. True, she’s carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her—and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here. But when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down, Loretha will have to summon all her strength, resourcefulness, and determination to keep on thriving, pursue joy, heal old wounds, and chart new paths. With a little help from her friends, of course.Amazon
This is my SPOILER FREE Book Review for It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Why THIS Book?
It was going to be the last book I read in 2021 and the title really spoke to me about my personal outlook on life. It isn’t all downhill! Yes, I keep losing my vision. Yes, things that once came easy are not easy anymore. Yes, I am in middle age and I can’t pretend otherwise. Yes, some of life’s opportunities have officially passed me by.
And yet. It is not downhill.
I started this book with all the optimism in the world…
Well. It is modern-day. Published in 2020 so it doesn’t mention the pandemic which is understandable. It is a book about a woman going through loss while not giving up on life. At least that is what it is supposed to be about.
Conversational, confessional, single POV, simple. It is an easy read. One might call it a beach read or an airplane read except that it isn’t overly short. That’s the good. The, not-so-good? There is a lot of dialogue. A lot. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is talking because all the characters tend to talk the same, use the same diction, a few overused slang words, the same formal speaking… and here is the really not so good part…. The dialogue doesn’t sound real. It sounds… robotic, overly formal, stilted, and sometimes downright strange. Maybe it would not have been such an issue if there hadn’t been so much of it. Plus, we spend a lot of time getting the story through the personal thoughts of our main character whose inner dialogue seems to be exactly the same as her outer dialogue. YMWV on this, but it bothered me.
So let’s talk about all these talkers. Sadly, because there is so much dialogue that doesn’t ever really feel different from the other dialogues, we don’t really get a deep sense of any of the characters outside of the main character. There are a lot of characters but besides the protagonist, they say as one-dimensional plot devices and background players. Yes, things happen to them, which we are then told about, but since it all happens off-screen, it lacks much of the emotional punch. A fair bit of our main character, Loretha’s actions take place off-screen too… and we find out about what she has been up to when she tells other people. Which.. Is fine, but it definitely keeps us distanced from her and feeling like an observer which, in turn, diminished our ability to connect fully.
Except for Loretha’s mom. Now that was a character I loved and wished we could have spent more time with.
I liked Loretha, I felt for her… but she didn’t seem fully realized as a character although much much closer than any of the other names and descriptions that wandered in and out of the story.
And the story…
Oy. There is a plot but it is… meandering and takes a long time to get going. On the one hand, it feels true to life. On the other hand, if I wanted to watch reality TV, I would not be reading a novel. There are a few times where plot points are clearly set up only to not happen and other plot moments that seem to come out of nowhere.
It was disappointing because the potential was there. Loretha was a person I was rooting for and cared about… having her simply tell us about things instead of seeing them and then having us with her for so many many mundane things, was frustrating. I think my biggest issue with Loretha and the plot, was that all the problems and tensions of the book were solved with either money or the start of a new romantic relationship. Now, money can solve a lot of problems, and I am totally into senior citizens getting their groove on with one another… but to have all the problems get solved that way… and we are talking big problems like loss, death, aging, fear of the unknown, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues… money and some new romance cannot be the solution to all those things.
I know I said earlier that this is an easy light read tailor-made for the beach… and it would be (especially with the obvious happy ending I have alluded to), but it was too long. It took too long to get to the resolutions, we stayed mired in the problems for so much of the book that it got downright repetitive. I’m not being snarky here, several conversions seemed to just be repeated and repeated…. With the same results. And if they had stayed that way, one might think that author McMillan is making the salient point that some of these problems are big and can’t just be solved with a conversation… except that eventually, that is exactly what happens.
Yes. Mostly. For all that I complain, I was invested and wanted to see what was finally going to bring two characters together. Also, I am a pessimist and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop or the money to run out or there to be something too big for a conversation to fix. I feel like I would have enjoyed the book more if it had gotten to the end faster and shown us more of the drama instead of just telling us about it… but the central themes are good themes and worth remarking upon.
Age is just a number. You never know what will happen. Seize the Day. Your health is important. Don’t take anything for granted.
Yes, these are cliche lessons that most books with elderly protagonists offer, but they are valid cliches and we really should be taking them to heart.
Maybe I am being more forgiving of the book because I read it in the days leading up to New Year’s less than a month after officially entering middle age and I am really feeling the backhand of time.
Would I recommend it
Actually… maybe. But yes if you like this type of book. I have a feeling a lot of readers will enjoy the lessons and the happy ending and the romance cliches. It isn’t deep. It won’t change your life. But it is enjoyable enough and there are a lot of food descriptions (I know many of my readers are foodies). I would say if you need a vacation book or a “I just retired” book… this might be the perfect one for you. Otherwise… well, there are other books out there.
My copy is going into the Traveling Free Library / Book Exchange Box. If you are local and speedy, you can probably snag it.
Btw: Happy New Year!
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?