Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan is a raunchy, sometimes too-real, long conversation of a group of people in a poorer section of the Los Angeles area. In fact, it started out real and raw, and left me with mixed feelings.
Who Asked You? is fantastic in that Terry McMillan knows how to keep each character’s individual voice. When Terry McMillan writes the chapter with Luther or Ricky she keeps true to their young voices and lack of education. I didn’t like the chapter where all of Dexter’s letters to Betty Jean were printed. The novel is about a grandmother (Betty Jean) who is left with her two grandchildren while their mother skips town with her new husband.
The book uses the “tornado effect” where each person that Betty Jean knows sees Betty Jean’s situation from their point of view. Many characters are represented and so there is no main character to focus on until later as more of Betty Jean’s voice is allowed. Mainly, the reader focuses on the plot and how people view the situation. The plot therefore becomes the character in this novel. But the charm of the novel loses me when Nurse Kim seduces Betty Jean’s Dementia-stricken husband in their bedroom. I skipped a few pages here as the details of their action were not necessary to the story line.
Besides some bad language, Who Asked You? Is an interesting look into a situation that has become more common in poverty-stricken areas. It’s explores the black and white thinking, the wrong and right, and the difficulties of living in the “hood.” The book shows growth and change in the characters as the years progress. Betty Jean realizes upon her husband’s death that she loved her husband after all. Things get better in the novel, but not perfect.
When I ended this book, I didn’t know if I liked it or not. It wouldn’t be a book I would read again, but the author’s writing is compelling enough that I would probably read other books by her name. If I had bought this book, I would have stopped reading when Nurse Kim did David Lee (the dementia-stricken husband) and returned the book to the book store or donated it to the library unread. So I settled on giving this book three stars. The writing is what gave it the third star. The story was really a two-star.
*Book given by publisher to review.