Terry McMillan’s latest book, “Who Asked You?,” tells the poignant and inspiring story of a grandmother who raises two lively grandsons in a racially diverse Los Angeles neighborhood after her daughter disappeared on them.
The tale is a departure from the two best-selling books for which she is best known: “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” To capture the emotions of the affected children, McMillan wrote “Who Asked You?” from their points of view, a technique she hadn’t really explored before. The voices of the characters rotate chapter to chapter.
McMillan will read from the book at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh.
In a phone interview, she said she wanted to tell the story from multiple angles in order to capture it completely.
“It’s like when there’s an accident and six different people see it and what they all saw is different,” she said. “I use that device to chart this story, but with the hope of being democratic. I believe that a lot of people don’t often ask children how they feel about events in their life, and I wanted to validate them.”
She said she didn’t set out to use the voices of so many characters to tell the story.
“I found out that was the only way I could tell this story,” McMillan said. “So it just evolved. But that’s the beauty of writing; it’s a very organic process. I had no idea how the story was going to end, what was going to happen to these people, but all I know is that I was going along for the ride with them.”
McMillan said the inspiration for focus on grandparenting in the book came from observing those around her.
“No one in my family got into the position that I put my main character in,” she said. “But I have always been curious and empathetic as well as sympathetic to grandparents who end up raising their grandchildren.”
She said readers of this novel should expect her usual humorous style despite the heavy nature of the problems the characters struggle with.
“What I got out of it was how important family really is,” McMillan said. “And how we have to be learn to be a lot more forgiving and tolerant of each other through our differences.”
As for future projects, McMillan said she has written 200 pages of her next novel, “I Almost Forgot About You.”
“It might come out next year,” she said. “I don’t want to say too much about it, but it does have love in it.”