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Waiting to Exhale Hardcover – Unabridged, May 28, 1992

101 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Waiting to Exhale Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A racy, zesty, irreverent and absorbing book with broad mainstream appeal, McMillan's third novel (after Mama and Disappearing Acts ) tells the stories of four 30ish black women bound together in warm, supportive friendship and in their dwindling hopes of finding Mr. Right. Savannah, Bernadine, Robin and Gloria are successful professional or self-employed women living in Phoenix. All are independent, upwardly mobile and "waiting to exhale"--to stop holding their breaths waiting for the proper mate to come along. (Bernadine is married, but her husband walks out on her for a white woman as the novel opens.) They also share speech patterns that some readers may find disconcerting: they utter profanities with panache, unceasingly. Indeed, the novel's major drawback may be the number of times such words as shit , fuck and ass are repeated on every page. These women have a healthy interest in sex, while deploring the fact that most of the men they meet are arrogant, irresponsible and chronically unfaithful. Each character is drawn with authenticity and empathy, and McMillan pulls no punches about their collective bad judgment in choosing partners for romance. After many vicissitudes, two of the heroines find love, but until then McMillan keeps us constantly guessing about which members of her lively quartet will be thus rewarded. There's nothing stereotyped in her work here: it is fresh and engaging. 100,000 copy first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Essence; BOMC and QPBC selections; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Like McMillan's previous novels, Disappearing Acts ( LJ 7/89) and Mama ( LJ 1/87), her new effort features a predictable plot, prose that often falls flat, and a narrative that lacks depth. Four African American women living in Phoenix devote most of their energies to searching for the one good black man who will make their dreams of the perfect partner and lover come true. Unsurprisingly, Savannah, Bernie, Gloria, and Robin all kiss several toads, but their trials and errors never arouse much interest. Far stronger is the author's sharp, often humorous depiction of the strong bonds among the four friends, their relationships with their families, and their community activities; readers will regret that McMillan did not develop these areas further. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/92.
- Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 409 pages
  • Publisher: The Viking Press; 1st edition (May 28, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670839809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670839803
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry McMillan fell in love with books as a teenager while working at the local library. She studied journalism at UC Berkeley and screenwriting at Columbia before making her fiction debut with Mama, which one both the Doubleday New Voices in Fiction Award and the American Book Award. She lives in Northern California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am amused at the nasty one star reviewers who feel that Waiting To Exhale is ONLY about black people, a kind of press conference for inter racial subject matter. Have you ever read Moby Dick? If so, I am here to tell you that is not about whales, not really-- and it is not about White whales either. I don't have time to teach the alphabet to nasty folks but I will try: Waiting To Exhale is a NOVEL. NOVELS are not to be taken literally, they are creative expressions. I can just see the surprised look on some simple faces -- go back to your Nickelodean, don't even bother with literature, stick to HIGHLIGHT magazine, and maybe -- maybe -- Goodnight Moon. Anyway I loved it; laughed out loud even the second time through. LOVE her way with dialogue and character. McMillan is a fresh and powerful voice who has, because of her extreme success and popularity, become a sometime target for the bitter and the jealous, not to mention the feeble. Spike Lee wrote a lengthy book jacket quote for the book, in support of Ms. McMillan, addressing the Black male issue as it pertains to the book, and perhaps this should be enlightening to those who care to look further. Spike Lee is not in the habit of suffering fools or racism -- so get a clue. His support and the support of thousands of loyal fans (black, white, red, yellow and purple) should prove that McMillan is a talent -- yes indeed, there are some who know how to read, not REED.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really only finished it because I was curious as to whether or not these women would grow up. Here are these women in their mid-30's and they STILL haven't got it together about what a RELATIONSHIP is! I know this is just a fiction, but I kept wanted to SCREAM at the women, (especially Savannah and Robin) "Keep your legs closed for JUST a little longer so you can see what the guy is really made of!" I also hated all the derrogatory references to overweight people. The ONE overweight person in the book who has a SHRED of self-esteem ends up having something happen to her that is stereotypical of ONLY happening to fat people. I had a hard time REALLY believing that these were well-educated women in their thirties. I did things that stupid when I was in my twenties, so I had a very difficult time relating to the pubescent immaturity of these girls. The only woman I found myself liking a LOT was Gloria. She was the good friend, and an excellent and devoted parent who basically had an idea of what was important in her life.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Shanahan on March 25, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I thought this was a fun read some years back..well-written..hence my first inclination to give it 2 stars, but taking another look..if a man ever wrote about his "repulsion" over sex with an overweight woman, the way Robin describes sex with Michael, we'd be taking to the streets in protest...there was such an unkindness to it..and this was a woman with a dear, overweight friend...I'm changing my mind..back to one star..too much shallow emphasis on looks, money,'s not a race makes all women look bad. Well, maybe just these women..I'd like to think some of us are different.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on January 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
'Waiting to Exhale' adds up to a few stereotypical caricatures plus a somewhat raggedy plot... so why was the book so popular? For one thing, it is falling-down-funny; for another, it tells a few home truths; and mainly, because the characters are people all of us have known at one time or another, regardless of ethnic or class background: Bernardine is every wife whose despicable jerk of a husband dumps her for a younger woman; Robin and Savannah are every woman with a genius for picking the wrong man; Russell is every wrong man; and Michael is every wrong right man (good husband material and zero in bed). We've all been there before.

McMillan clearly has sympathy for her four female protagonists; Robin may be dumber than a box of rocks when it comes to men, but you can't help liking her. McMillan is not a very deep writer and WTE is not a very deep book, but it's funny, perceptive, well written, and well worth reading.

Judy Lind
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Len Feder on February 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
They say that the phoenix rises from its own ashes and is reborn. With much of the action of this book taking place in Phoenix, Arizona, the four leading characters all experience a fall and rebirth.
Without giving away too much, Gloria comes closest to a literal death and rebirth because of her health problems. I love happy endings, and Gloria has one.
Bernadine's fall occurs very early in the story, when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Her war is fought in the courts, the "bad guy" being her lying, sneaking husband who is trying to keep all his money away from Bernadine and the children.
Savannah and Robin are similar in that they both fall for great looking men, and give away too much of themselves too soon. Their resurrection is one of the spirit, when they learn to stand up for themselves and stop being doormats to handsome men.
All four of these main characters are black women in their late 30s, and the biggest complaint in their lives is that black men are selfish, deceitful, arrogant, etc. Fortunately, Gloria and Bernadine find out that it isn't always that way. There are some gems out there. As for Savannah and Robin, they learn to re-evaluate their priorities. With superficial values like a handsome face and a chiseled body, you are bound to end up in a superficial relationship.
This book is very easy to read. At first I misunderstood the author and disliked her characters because two of them were so annoyingly superficial, craving one pretty-boy or another, defining men in terms of looks only. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because I see that the author felt the same way as I do.
If you want to find a moral here, it is that a woman really shouldn't sell herself cheap. She doesn't need to lay down with every handsome guy she meets, the day she meets him.
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