When I need to describe a good book, I usually use words like ‘enjoyable,’ ‘fascinating,’ ‘well-written,’ but I don’t really think of books as ‘fun,’ not because I don’t like reading them but because ‘fun’ makes me think of riding roller coasters. But Who Asked You is just a fun book. It was a blast to read, and what makes that even weirder to say is that it touches on some sad, serious problems like addiction, divorce, and crime. There are some real heartbreaking parts but the book is, overall, optimistic and charming.
Who Asked You tells the story of an extended black family in California during the early 2000s. The first character we meet is Betty Jean, who’s taking care of her grandsons after their addict mother drops them off. The narrative soon expands to include her sisters, their families and some of their friends. There are quite a few narrators, in and outside the family. Some of them appear just once and one doesn't even get a name. The occasional chapter by a child narrator adds some levity and I appreciated the variety of voices, from Quentin’s mildly pretentious vocabulary to Lee’s short, fractured trains of thought.
I'm used to a traditional story structure of rising action and a climax, I was a little lost when I finished the book and found that hadn’t happened. There are dramatic events but they don’t really build to a boiling point. They just kind of happen, one after another with no particular plan, just like they do in real life. For a book that mimics the pace of the real world so well, the ending was oddly neat and convenient. Almost everyone gets an extremely happy ending. The way it wraps up doesn’t leave a lot to think about but left me with a nice feeling at the last page.
Terry McMillan has written a couple other novels, including How Stella Got Her Groove Back. If you want to read this book, leave a post with contact info and I'll pick a random commenter in a few days.