I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan (Crown)
This was my first time reading Terry McMillan, and I so wanted to enjoy Georgia and her motley assortment of zany daughters, parents, neighbors, best friends, co-workers, and former lovers. Alas, it was not to be. Disappointingly, many of Mcmillan’s innumerable characters were never fully realized enough for me to get a grip on who they were and what they wanted.
The premise of I Almost Forgot About You is appealing and relatable, just never satisfyingly executed. Georgia, an established optometrist and twice divorced mother of two adult daughters, hears about the death of a former flame with whom she’s never shared her true feelings. She loved him but never told him. Learning of this death prompts her to take stock of her life and happiness, and leads to a slew of introspection and plans for self-reinvention. These include selling her share in the optometry practice, taking a big trip, selling her house, moving, and reaching out to former lovers and sharing the impact they had on her life (while hopefully receiving the same feedback from them).
There are places where Macmillan’s settings and characters are infused with an engaging warmth and humor that had me eager to hear more about Georgia’s exploits and adventures; but the plot never gelled into a consistent story, and the details of her friendships, relationships, and goals were oddly contradictory. I’d read the valid reasons of why a former relationship didn’t work out (drugs, lying, no job, no common interests other than sex), and later on that same relationship would be defined as one where she was afraid of losing herself in a love that was too deep for her to handle. Huh? Also, her friends. Attending the same college wasn’t enough to explain the bafflingly close relationship she purportedly had with Violet (selfish, shady, with questionable morals & ethics), and Wanda’s cure-all advice seemed to be for Georgia to just get laid. Apparently it (SEX!), is the answer to all life’s problems. The conversations throughout the novel were stilted, and the long blocks of dialogue without a hint of notation of who was speaking pulled me out of the story. Don’t even get me started on the insta-love that pops up in the last pages of the novel.
Admittedly, Terry McMillan novels aren’t my usual fare, but even for a lighter read there were too many inconsistencies in tone and characterization to make this coherent and enjoyable. I probably should have set it aside sooner, but it was an easy read. Before I knew it, I was 200 pages in, and by that point, I had to finish. I love the notions behind this story, and that it gets behind the idea that it’s never too late for you to shift gears and start doing something you love, and that you can find someone to love even if you didn’t get it right before.
Mainly, I Almost Forgot About You attempts to follow too many shallow threads and storylines at once. The number of dramas and storylines was overwhelming and detracted from the depth of the story I most wanted to hear, Georgia’s. But, I did enjoy the descriptions of what people ate, a few of Georgia’s former relationships, and her burgeoning furniture restoration hobby. Macmillan, by way of Georgia, mentions a few recipes I would love to try, so all is not lost.