I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

Georgia Young is an optometrist in her fifties. She lives alone in a large house because her two daughters are grown, and she’s been divorced twice. Although she has a crush on Detective Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, it’s not enough. She’s bored in her safe, repetitive career, and lonely. When she meets a new patient with an odd last name, she realizes she dated this young woman’s father. He’s dead, the woman tells her, and has been dead five years. Georgia can’t believe someone she loved could be dead and she not know. Thus begins her quest to make a list of the men she’s loved and contact them to ask if they’re alive and thriving and to thank them for loving her — and why they stopped loving her.

Now, this wouldn’t be a Terry McMillan book if the main character didn’t have children who find trouble and a few good girlfriends. Surprisingly, McMillan limits Georgia’s friendships to mainly one other woman: Wanda, who was born wealthy but is entirely cheap and tacky. I loved Georgia and Wanda’s interactions; McMillan’s humor shines through each time they get together or call. When Georgia explains that’s she’s found an ex and is going to see him, Wanda encourages to have sex with him:

” . . . Men do this shit all the time.” [says Wanda]
“And what’s that?” [asks Georgia]
“Get it whenever with whomever they can. We can learn from them, and especially you about now.”
“I’m just excited about seeing him after all these years. I think I’d be happy just to hug him.”
“Hug him? He’s a goddamn man, not your long lost son.”

Wanda is the ultimate girlfriend, rooting on Georgia, pushing Georgia out of her comfort zone, and being a bit of a stinker. If Georgia calls at a bad time, Wanda flat-out says, “And don’t call me back. Nelson’s half [blue] pill is about to kick in.”

As Georgia recollects why she no longer sees the men on her list whom she loved, Wanda reminds her Georgia should be systematic in contacting them: start with the most recent (her two ex-husbands) and then go backward. Michael was husband number one, and the way McMillan describes the relationship — in a list format, no less — touched me. The “love” list includes, “He read to me. He let me fall asleep on top of him. He took my braids out. He spooned me almost every night. The “break-up” list includes, “He stopped holding my hand. He stopped kissing me good night. He stopped kissing me good morning. He stopped kissing me.” Because it’s the moments that matter in a relationship and not the big declarations, McMillan’s use of a list was effective in communicating how Georgia’s heart was built up and then broken.

If you are a careful reader who wants every inclusion of information to mean something, McMillan might leave you irritated. However, if you read simply in the moment, you’ll love I Almost Forgot About You. I’m somewhere in the middle. I noticed details like Georgia had an older brother in the army who died that never gets mentioned again nor affects Georgia. Then, there was Georgia’s oldest daughter claiming she wanted to move closer to her mother (implying she might buy Wanda’s house) that doesn’t go anywhere. It’s all fodder that adds to the setting and gives you a very full picture of Georgia’s life, but I’m someone who wants everything to mean something. When McMillan did a virtual author visit with my local library, she showed us the massive filing system she has for all of her characters, including character sheets, which may be the culprits of these extra bits of information.

While I was reading I Almost Forgot About You, I enjoyed myself. Biscuit and I laughed about the characters, we talked about what it means when a woman in her fifties wants to change careers, sell her house, and reflect on her past relationships. Who supports her, and who thinks she’s foolish? Is there ever a good time to give up security for the unknown? A recommended read.

Me and Biscuit, October 2019

24 comments

  1. That’s a lovely photo of you and Biscuit!

    I’m glad this worked better for you than your last McMillan novel – I think the dropped threads that you mention would probably frustrate me, but I agree that it does sound like she builds up a very full picture of her characters’ lives, which is nice.

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    • I got my first vaccine yesterday, so my mom and I are on the count down for when she can come see us! The picture I included is from before the pandemic.

      It does drive me insane that McMillan has so many plot threads that don’t forward the story as well, but I think a lot of readers like that fullness appeals to some readers. When McMillan visited my library via Zoom, she noted that she uses character sheets, which can be a great tool, but and she doesn’t need soooo much to actually make it on the page.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds fun! I think I would also want more of those little details to mean something but it sounds like she nails the way relationships can work and can break down.

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  3. Love that picture!

    This one sounds like one I’d enjoy. I haven’t read McMillan in a LONG time – like since high school and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. I liked that movie and also Waiting to Exhale back in the day.

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  4. I really like the sound of this one. I still see one ex around as he’s friends with my neighbours, weirdly, and I keep tabs on another couple just in case they I dunno die or something. Ha!

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  5. You know that I stay in touch with my ex-wife (#2). I still have lunch with my most recent girlfriend (that one ended 3 years ago at least) and I’ve caught up with girlfriends from high school, I still write to one and see her if we’re in the same city. Sadly, my first and third wives (no children) don’t talk to me, but I hope they’re doing ok. And have they (the ones still talking to me) put the hard word on me? Maybe.

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    • I wonder if they would read a book like this and consider contacting you. If you separated amicably, I’m not sure why they would not want to know that you are okay, especially given the pandemic. In this novel, the main character speaks to both ex-husbands, and they get some stuff out there and admit flaws they hadn’t been able to talk about while married.

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  6. Can I just say your mother looks fabulous? was she super young when she had you? Damn I hope I age that well.

    Anyway, I like the sound of this book, and iIm interested in this idea of a woman changing careers in her 50s-can it be done? What did the book have to say about that challenge?

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    • LOL! Just last night my mom and I were doing video book club together and she kept tipping the camera way up. I couldn’t figure out why, and then she said it’s because she hates her neck! So then she zipped up her jacked all the way up to her chin. LOL. I chewed her out lightly, and then she figured out how to change her view so she doesn’t see me AND her. And that I get. Sometimes, seeing yourself can make you self-conscious. We’re not meant to stare at ourselves all the time. Mom got married at 21, had Garrett at 23, had me at 25. I will say you’re right, though. She ages like a McDonald’s french fry.

      I Almost Forgot About You is quite a funny book and easy to read. The interesting part about the main character switching careers is it’s not clear cut. She is a co-owner of an optometry business, so it’s not just switching jobs, but seeing if her partner wants to buy her out. There are also questions about selling her house, which is family size, when she’s just one person. None of it was super straight forward, which I liked.

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  7. Love the photo of you and Biscuit! (And hoping you’ll get a new one soon!) I also like the idea of the list you mention that focuses on the little things- I’d definitely agree that those are the things that make or break a relationship and thus would give the novel a more authentic and relatable feel. But I’m 100% a reader who wants every detail in the book to be there for a reason, so the extra mentions that don’t ultimately lead anywhere would drive me nuts. As a writer I do think it can be helpful to have those character sheets or extra notes with background details that can help flesh out a character throughout the process of writing them, but I also think it’s important to know when those details are necessary to share and when they can just be kept silent to help shape the character off page. But that’s just the kind of reader I am, and to each her own!

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    • No, I totally agree with you, Emily. With a character sheet, it’s important to only include what’s necessary, but it could also be important for things like keeping time (the character’s birthday) or where they’re from vs. where they’re living now, etc.

      I will definitely take a new pic of Biscuit and me when we meet up in May and I think we will even do an in person book club!

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      • Wholly agree! As a writer who gets excited sometimes about knowing all sorts of minutiae about my characters, I know it can be tempting to go overboard on their background info, but the reader really does not need to know every single detail, and in fact can become bogged down by it, imo. I’m so glad I’m not alone in believing those details should be sifted through more carefully.

        I’m so excited for you both to have your in-person reunion! 🙂

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  8. Aw. That photo makes me super happy. I miss you. Once this whole pandemic thing is done, visits shall happen somehow or another. You brace yourself. ❤

    This book sounds quite refreshing for the soul. You're so right that it's the little things that make or break relationships.Does the whole list theme continue throughout the book? I would probably find that really endearing.

    Since I'm reading your posts backwards in time, I read on your Sunday post that you found this book to be much more enjoyable than the other McMillan you read recently. What is the big difference between these two for you? Why did you enjoy this one more?

    …Though, I'm with you. I'd probably find the characters appearing and vanishing infuriating.

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    • Biscuit and my dad are coming May 15th because Nick and I and they will all be fully vaccinated at that point. It will be our first visit with ANYONE in 13 months. Literally anyone. Whoa. We’re baby stepping it with that first, and I have tentative plans with the blogger Cupcakes & Machetes and her spouse for this summer. Baby steps. We’ll see you soon. I have to meet baby in person soon! About once per week I scroll through my pandemic album in Google photos and it’s so weird to see baby in utero and then there she is as a person wearing clothes. It almost makes me teary because it was a whole journey.

      What I liked more about I Almost Forgot About You is that the main character was quite funny. For instance, in one situation she orders take out food. After it arrives, she gets a call from a man asking if he can come pick her up and take her out. She goes into super speed mode, hiding the food in the trash, spraying air freshener, dolling up a bit, and then waiting. She gets a text that his mom needs him and he can’t come, so there she is digging her Chinese food out of the trash. It’s quite comical. Plus, the main character has two good friends who are different. In the newest novel, the main character has four friends who all blur together and don’t make much sense as people?

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