to be perfectly honest, i hate the title of this book. i generally don't lean towards chick lit or self help (or whatever else you might think this book is) and i almost didn't pick it up because of it's obvious leanings towards some unstated audience. but, really, in this case, don't judge a book by it's cover and don't assume that the title is an adequate representation of the weight a book can carry. i am more than glad that i gave it a chance and not only enjoyed the reading, but i think i actually learned something about myself along the way (bonus!).
this is a memoir and it is definitely written for women, by a woman, but, what McMillan has to say is in many ways universal to humans. and her very journalistic ability to cut through to the raw and often painful truth of a situation is what makes this book extraordinarily readable. i don't know if i would go so far as to run around recommending it for all of the men i know, but it certainly isn't limited to the female audience. it is, i'd also like to mention, written for someone at least familiar with modern American pop culture, as the book references everything from Britney Spears to the band Pavement, Monopoly to Axe body spray, the website Hot or Not, and the Obamas. it is very current and relevant and i found that this made it even more applicable in so many ways, but on the flip side of that, the book might estrange some audiences.
"I am doing all kinds of things to "get over it," not realizing that there is no getting over it. There's only getting through it."
at the opening of the book, Tracy McMillan finds herself married and divorced three times, alone as a single mother, making life as complicated as possible and never quite getting it right. before diving headfirst into a fourth disaster, she decided it might be a good idea to figure out what it was that wasn't clicking in her relationships. the realization was that she had some rather obvious daddy issues and was recreating her childhood issues in her adult relationships. as the daughter of a pimp (literally) and a prostitute, Tracy grew up in a world very different from anything i could really relate to, surrounded by gratuitous amounts of sex and drugs, not to mention prison, which her father couldn't seem to avoid. but, despite the unfamiliar setting, and the sociopathic tendencies and overt girliness that was equally foreign to me, there was an immense amount of familiarity, as well.
guilt. jealousy. self mistrust. daddy issues. fear of abandonment. escapism, and the desire to run when all else fails. these are things that we have all probably experienced to some degree in our own lives and relationships. Tracy takes her time detailing her childhood, her previous three marriages, and the birth of her son, in all their glory and misery, describing her own emotional status throughout. for that, i've got to give it to her for putting herself out there, because a lot of what she experienced was due to her own repetitive, misguided choices and bad decisions and she wasn't the least bit afraid to admit it. most important, though, is that she was willing to break the cycle and finally try to learn from it.
the writing style was very journalistic, pulling from McMillan's own career as a TV writer, no doubt. it was almost like having a conversation with Tracy over a cup of coffee, with her telling us about her life today with reflections on the past mixed within. the building of the history into the culminating moment of personal discovery is highly readable and i had no problem finishing the book in a few short sittings. there is, as i mentioned, a lot of sex and drugs, as well as a heavy use of expletives, so i wouldn't recommend this for anyone that might take offense or be uncomfortable with any of that. but, if the realism of McMillan's world interests you, this is a fantastic book and really holds an important message about love (of yourself and of others) and forgiveness in order to find true happiness.
"It's so much less complicated than I make it."
though Tracy is a single mother, a divorcee, a prison inmate's daughter, a past drug user (read: so many things that i am not), i related to her and her story because it is her fundamental humanity that shone through it all. and despite the tough moments, it is a wonderfully positive book of redemption and self discovery. highly recommended!