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The Interruption of Everything Reader’s Guide

By Terry McMillan

The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan


Questions and Topics for Discussion

Everyone wants something from Marilyn Grimes. She is a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, tireless in her devotion and saintly in her self-sacrifice. But, after years of constant giving, Marilyn is ready to receive. She wants a sense of purpose; and she needs passion in her life. More than anything, Marilyn wants her self back, but she’s not sure where or how to find it.

In Terry McMillan’s new novel, The Interruption of Everything, the dilemmas of family, identity, and love loom large as seen through the lens of one woman’s midlife crisis. McMillan continues to write at the top of her game, displaying the honesty and hilarity that have won over millions of readers. McMillan’s latest heroine, Marilyn—tough and tender, good but flawed—will be familiar to any woman who has faced disappointment or heartache, who has felt she has given so much of herself there’s nearly nothing left.

With a sharp tongue and a quick pen, McMillan outlines the mountain of responsibility that is Marilyn’s life. A stale marriage, an expanding waistline, and an elderly mother are only the beginning of her concerns as Marilyn attempts to be all things to all people. Yet, as frustrated as she feels about being constantly needed, Marilyn is wrestling with a new wrinkle to her life: not being needed anymore. Her husband Leon has left to find himself in Costa Rica—perhaps with a young girlfriend in tow—and the children they raised together are busy, independent adults. Even Arthurine, her Bible-toting mother-in-law, suddenly seems fulfilled, with vacations in Vegas and a new boyfriend. Everyone is following their dream but Marilyn. She has artistic flair that would make Martha Stewart sit up and take notice, but she’s never been able to devote much time to her ideas. With an absent husband and an empty nest, will she finally have her moment of peace? Can she focus on her own goals for a change?

McMillan is too smart for simple resolutions, however; she knows life just doesn’t work that way. Mixing tragedy with comedy, she keeps Marilyn juggling, maintaining her multitasking frenzy until the last page. Between frustrations and obligations, Marilyn begins to realize that life is nothing but a series of interruptions, and that dreams are what you make of them. Ultimately, The Interruption of Everything sees midlife as the start of a new life, and so ends with a beginning; Marilyn is full of potential, and McMillan leaves it to her readers to imagine what will happen next.



Terry McMillan is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of five previous novels and recipient of the Essence Award for Excellence in Literature. She is also the author of A Day Late and a Dollar Short andWaiting to Exhale.


  • Compose a self-improvement list similar to Marilyn’s; try to include items large and small. Discuss your choices and priorities. What has kept you from accomplishing these goals?
  • Which dreams have you realized so far in your life? How did you achieve these successes? How have your goals changed as your life progresses?
  • Name the three generations of women represented in The Interruption of Everything and the concerns particular to each. What are the differences and similarities between each stage of life?
  • Men and women have different reactions to aging. Why do you believe this is? Compare the midlife stereotypes for men and for women.
  • Lovey and Arthurine demonstrate two different experiences of old age. Does either woman represent any hopes you have for your own future? Any fears? Do you recognize aspects of yourself (or your own parents) in either character?
  • Marilyn refers to her ex-husband Gordon as her soul mate, but has shared a life with her husband Leon. What are the different personality traits we associate with the idea of a soul mate as opposed to a life partner? Which traits are more desirable, and why?
  • Do you think Leon was telling the truth about Costa Rica? What was really going on with him? Was Marilyn right to let him back into her life?
  • Discuss the incidents of poverty, violence, and drug use in the novel. Why do you think the author included these scenes?
  • In the book, the characters demonstrate a broad range of approaches to the parent/child relationship. Choose the parent/child pair you find the most compelling, and then explain its strengths and weaknesses. Are there any completely “good” or “bad” relationships?
  • What does the title, The Interruption of Everything, mean to you? In what way is the novel’s ending also a beginning? What are your predictions for the next stage of Marilyn’s life?
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