Mini Review: Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

Terry McMillan follows a large cast of characters as they struggle to learn what it means to be good family, how to find a path in life, and when to hold their tongues. I didn’t find it hard to keep the characters straight, at all. Primarily, though, are three middle-age sisters with adult children trying to hold on to the reigns of life as it gallops out of control. Who Asked You? is narrated by several voice actors, all of whom do a splendid job. Yet, I wish this work were abridged so that the dialogue tags were clearer. Phylicia Rashad in particular doesn’t alter her voice for different characters when they have a conversation. Terry McMillan reads the role of Nurse Kim, and her crusty voice ended up being my favorite, as she so endearingly gave this inappropriate, Harry Potter-loving in-home nurse that extra something.

My favorite aspect of the book was the way one character would narrate a scene and be a perfectly civilized human. The next chapter, though, we’d get the point of view of the other person in that exact same scene and nothing was the same. The first person ended up looking and sounding offensive and short-tempered. Isn’t that life, though? We never remember things the same as others, especially our siblings and parents.

Distinct characters make this a good choice to listen to listen; however, I think I could have happily read the physical copy.

25 comments

  1. Multiple narrator audiobooks can be difficult for that reason, particularly if the narrators are not one to one for characters. However, I sometimes get this confused with an author who doesn’t write distinctive voices for their different characters. I can only learn that from a physical book. Do you find McMillan’s characters uniquely voiced? Can you pinpoint this is a voice actor concern?

    Huh. I won’t lie — I didn’t realize Waiting to Exhale was a book. I should have! Silly me.

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    • The three sisters all sounded very different as they were written, but because there were multiple characters and fewer voice actors than that, the story was harmed to some degree by having a voice actor who didn’t “do” voices. Coming back to Bronson Pinchot, I can tell all the characters apart in his audiobooks, and he does everyone. Phylicia Rashad did three voices, and while the characters’ experiences and voices were unique, she read them all the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the book where there was an uneven number of narrators to character perspectives. I know The Wheel of Time books have that going on, but I’ve avoided it.

        I really want to listen to any book narrated by Pinchot now. Looks like I’ll be seeking his works out ASAP! XD

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        • I was telling my mom about Pinchot, and she said that she had tried his audiobooks before and found him distracting. Then, Nick and I were talking about how people perceive audio narrators differently. Some people, like me, enjoy more performative audiobooks, but other people, probably like my mom, prefer someone just reading the book. It’s interesting to think about what people want from an audio experience!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I was interested enough to check out the author. Are the main protagonists African-American? Does it make any difference? My local library has 2 Terry McMillan DVDs and 2 novels, zero audiobooks unfortunately.

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    • McMillan is a black woman who typically writes about the everyday lives of black women. I think it matters, as these are stories that are not often told. Much like they do with immigrant stories, people frequently pull the most dramatic and stereotypical (in the media) elements out of the lives of black women and focus on the negative in fiction and film.

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  3. I derive a strange, sweet pleasure from reading about the same situation from two totally different perspectives. It just affirms how crazy this life of ours is, and walking in someone else’s shoes would be such a valuable (but of course impossible) experience.

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    • I remember in one of my first creative writing classes this guy sharing a story in which three people are at a McDonald’s, and the events are told from each of their perspectives. It wasn’t a particularly interesting story he wrote, but it was my first experience with thinking about how people would perceive situations differently, even changing details and tones of voices dramatically.

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  4. I like the idea of multiple voice actors – almost like listening to a radio play! And there is something so fun and satisfying about a single scene told from multiple characters’ POVs. Really drives home how important perspective is!

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    • I like it best if I really, really want to tell characters apart. For instance, in Sarah Pinborough’s thriller Behind Her Eyes, there were two female characters who had alternating chapters. I thought it was useful to have one who sounded more posh, as was her character, and another sound more everyday, as was her character.

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  5. I really want to read this one, although I have got a lot to get through at the moment before I can buy a lot of new books! It sounds like the multiple narrators worked quite well, though my husband tells me he prefers one reader who can differentiate well.

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