Tag: A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of Terry McMillan’s A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Let’s take a look at  A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan from a writer’s perspective (the discussion for the novel began here.)

This post contains spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel is a peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Strengths of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

Each chapter of the novel is narrated from the first person point of view by one of several different members of the Price family. Moving from character to character might be confusing in some hands, but Terry McMillan is adept at it. You can identify the voice of the featured family member readily. With an an amazing ear, she plays with slang, dialect, rhythm, and sentence length to give each character a memorable voice. They talk, think and act like a real, recognizable people.

Characters’ Voices

How does the author change the voice of each character to make them unique? Let’s look at some actual examples.

Matriarch of the family,  Viola Price

Viola is a strong-willed, opinionated  woman and her words reflect that. They gush onto the page in stream of consciousness rush, with a few expletives strewn in like boulders to make her points.

“I have tried my damnedest to like George, be nice, act civilized toward him, but I can’t pretend no more… Janelle brag that he got over six hundred people working under him. I ain’t impressed in the least.

Her estranged husband, Cecil Price

Cecil has a bit of a Texarkana twang.  He says “ain’t,” “thank” instead of think, and “everythang” instead of everything. (This must have been a nightmare for the copy editor.)

I shoulda stayed a little longer. I know I shoulda… Seemed like she wanted me to hurry up and leave. At least that’s my thanking on it. She said no to everythang I asked her.

Their oldest daughter, Paris

Single mom Paris supports her son with her catering business. Her voice is as clean and sophisticated as she can make it.

I also heard I’m a perfectionist. Which I will admit to:  and proud of it. They make it sound like a dirty word. All I have to say is:  don’t hate me because I’m organized.

Their second daughter, Charlotte

Charlotte was born on her mother’s birthday and sounds the most like Viola.

It’s times like this when I wish I hadda went to college. Hell, if I could ever find the time, I’d like to go back to school:  at least take a few classes. Not necessarily for no degree.

Their third daughter, Janelle

Janelle is educated, although a bit lost in her own little world.

Of the three girls in my family, I’m the smallest. I should say, the most fit. I’m the only one who works out,…I’ve been trying to persuade Mama and my sisters — particularly Charlotte’s big butt — to at least try walking. But they’re too lazy.

Their son, Lewis

Lewis had a lot of potential when he was young, but gets sidetracked into a life of crime. For the most part, Lewis speaks in short sentences.

I got a job. But it’s on hold. I’m on disability right now. Don’t nobody in my family believe I got rheumatoid arthritis.

Once you see the patterns, it is easy to recognize which character is speaking in each chapter without them actually being named. This ability is not easy to achieve, and Terry McMillan deserves recognition for her ability to carry it off.

 

Public domain photo via Visualhunt.com

Weaknesses of A Day Late and a Dollar Short:

It isn’t a big weakness, but Terry McMillan’s novel comes across at times as a cautionary tale. Everything that can befall a family shows up in the novel at some point:  illness, death, drug addiction, alcohol problems, teen pregnancy, incest, adultery, characters sent to jail, etc. It’s as if McMillan wants you to see how things can go wrong if you make certain choices, and how to avoid those in your own life. That isn’t necessarily a bad goal, but can get wearing over time without a bit of levity or hopefulness. Fortunately, things do perk up at the end as the family members start to turn their lives around.

Discussion

I have to admit that I would never have opened this book if it hadn’t been part of The Bestseller Code 100 challenge. Mostly I was put off by the title, which seemed old-fashioned and a bit lame. After I started reading, however, I was once again reminded how first impressions can be so wrong.  Now I can’t wait to read more of McMillan’s novels.

Why did the computer choose this book as one of the best of the bestsellers? Possibly because there is a strong theme of family and relationships, which was one of the themes mentioned as being important. Also, I’ve noticed many of the novels it selected have been narrated from more than one perspective, or have different voices in different chapters. This one definitely fits that criteria.

Regardless of why the computer chose it,  writers will find it an awesome example of how to develop characterization and realistic dialogue. It is a title well worth examining.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? What drew you to it? Did you like the title?

 

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Author Terry McMillan is known for her strong female characters, specifically African American women in professional and/or matriarchal roles.  If you’ve not read any of her books, I’m willing to bet you are still familiar with them, as many have been made into big-screen or made-for-television movies – Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Disappearing Acts, and A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

This post does contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Strong Matriarchal Voice

As Roberta noted in #BookBeginnings, the first voice we hear is matriarch Viola Price, who quickly establishes herself as a woman with strong opinions and the will to voice them. She doesn’t takes guff from anyone and that includes her estranged husband and her four children. Maybe it’s no accident that none of her children live near her or that her husband has moved out and found a new, younger, less strident woman to live with. Vi is about as subtle as a steamroller.

Even though I didn’t know any African American women when I was growing up, I instantly recognized the voices of a couple of my aunts.  The language Viola uses and her patterns of speech might be different, but her fearless and frank admonitions and advice to her children and extended family are similar to those I heard in my childhood from certain aunts.  If they thought you needed a verbal slap upside the head, they didn’t hesitate to give it to you, whether you had asked for it or not.  Don’t we all have at least one relative that calls it like it is?  I believe this is why McMillan’s characterization of Viola rings so true.  And even though Viola dies partway through the book, her presence is still a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book.

Family Tree

McMillan provides Viola and Cecil Price’s family tree in the print copy of the books (there was not one in the Kindle version, much to my dismay) and, at the beginning, I  definitely referred to this tree often to keep track of all the characters.  Each chapter is presented from the viewpoint of another character, and they are all vivid, memorable, and believable.  Because of this, it doesn’t take long before you recognize each voice right from the first few sentences of each new chapter.

The family tree is our first clue to just how dysfunctional the Price family is.  Almost every member of the family has had multiple marriages and children from those multiple marriages.  As the book proceeds, the Price family members experience a seemingly unending series of crises – teen pregnancies, an abusive step-father, substance abuse, jail sentences, infidelity – and that’s just in the first few chapters!  Each family member does their best to hide these crises from their parents and siblings, presenting the “all is great” facade to the world.  Viola does her best to hold the splintering family together, but she knows she may not survive her next asthma attack.

For a while I found it difficult to believe that so much could happen to one family in such a short time, but then I lost myself in the characters and ceased caring if it was believable or not.  I only wanted to know what would happen next and if they would all come through the flames intact.

Letters from Viola

Even though Viola dies partway through the book, she remains a vital part of the story. I especially liked how McMillan brought Vi’s voice back in the last chapter.  The entire family gathers together at Thanksgiving and they read aloud the letters Vi wrote to her husband and children before her death.  It was an effective way to bring about a reconciliation.  And though the ending might be too neatly wrapped up, as a reader I appreciated the feel-good ending.  I wanted the Price family to have their kumbaya moment and McMillan came through.

I listed in my opening paragraph all the McMillan novels that have been made into movies.  Amazingly enough, I’ve never seen any of those movies, nor read any of her books.  I will be adding all of them to my “must see” and “must read” lists.  That’s how much I enjoyed A Day Late and a Dollar Short.  How about you?  Did you enjoy reading about Viola Price and her family?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: Number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: A peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

Quick Giveaway of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

I accidentally ended up with two paperback copies of  A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan for The Bestseller Code 100 Challenge. Our discussion for the book is supposed to start October 30, 2017, so let’s have a quick giveaway for the extra copy.

Giveaway

If you are participating in our reading challenge and would like a chance to receive a paperback copy of A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan, please leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address. Let’s make the deadline by 12:00 noon Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday 19, 2017. That will give the postal service time to deliver before the challenge discussion starts. I will randomly select a winner if more than one person enters. Let’s limit it to U.S. residents this time.

Edit:  This giveaway is now closed.

You can comment on what your favorite book has been so far, if you’d like.

 

 

giveaway

 

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