A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

The Prices are introduced by Viola, the family’s outspoken matriarch: Her husband, Cecil, has shut the door behind him for the last time; and their four adult kids, scattered across the country, seem determined to send her to her grave, or at least to the hospital with worry.

Paris is a divorced mother to a nearly seventeen-year-old son and the one who always comes to everybody’s rescue, although she doesn’t have a clue how to save herself.

Lewis is the scapegoat, and his troubles keep landing him in jail, which only seems to confirm what his family thinks about him. Out in Chicago, Charlotte knows she’s got the short end of the stick for years, has “nothing in common except blood” with her parents and siblings and would just as soon divorce them all.

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Janelle, the baby of the family, is not only on the defensive about the course of her own life but she’s facing a new crisis, a fast-brewing storm with her teenage daughter that threatens more than she’s willing to admit.

And don’t even ask Viola about Cecil: “He’s a bad habit I’ve had for thirty-eight years which would make him my husband.” But Cecil has some ideas for taking his hardworking life into his own hands, regardless of what his wife and kids think about it.

With her hallmark exuberance and a cast of characters so sassy, resilient, and full of life that they breathe, dream, and shout right off the page, Terry McMillan has given us a tour de force novel of family, healing, and redemption.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short takes us deep into the hearts, minds, and souls and gives us six more friends we never want to leave.

In Edit Editorial Words 1 1

I can’t think of a contemporary author who does generational Black family dialogue as well as Terry McMillan. She is a master at creating realistic conversations.

The arguments, conversations, jests, and complaints sound like ones I’ve overheard in my home. A Day Late and A Dollar Short is yet another McMillan story I found digging in the crates of my local bookstore. I was sucked in after only a couple of chapters and couldn’t believe I had never heard of this one.

I guess when your catalog contains Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back it’s easy for your other work not to get the same shine.

It took no convincing to imagine these multi-dimensional characters. You’ve got Lewis, the black sheep, who can’t seem to get right, Paris the overachieving eldest, Charlotte who feels like a stepchild, and Janelle the baby who hasn’t been able to stick to anything.

Everyone has met a version of one if not all of these characters amongst their own.

I really enjoyed the alternating perspectives that spanned genders and generations. I can always count on McMillan to breathe life into Black female characters but I thought Lewis and the patriarch Cecil were well done. It was also refreshing to get POVs from the parents, Viola and Cecil.

It’s not often that the fiction I read lends perspective to folks over fifty. Cecil and Viola have raised their children and they’re older but they’re not dead. Viola is trying to get her ducks in a row and seems to be reckoning with purpose while Cecil starts a new family across town in the hope of reclaiming his youth. You know what they say… “Women repair while men replace.”

This book felt like fictional family dynamics done right. There is no quick fix, no happy endings, or easy resolutions. Coming to peace with family can be messy, long, non-linear, and force self-reflection.

I’d argue anyone that who makes it through all 500 pages of this book will come away thinking about their own family and what is important when we take a step back and look at life.



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