While Marilyn believes that her only role is as an emotional provider, McMillan constructs a nexus of characters in such a way that it becomes obvious that Marilyn enjoys the support of a large and varied female community across generational and class strata. In doing so, McMillan reveals Marilyn’s major flaw: an unwillingness to deal truthfully with herself and to expend the same best effort on her own behalf that she has expended for her family. Foremost in this supportive community is Marilyn’s mother-in-law, Arthurine. Though she is a source of much annoyance for Marilyn and a good deal of comic dialogue for readers, Arthurine is ultimately one of Marilyn’s greatest supporters. When the widowed Arthurine embarks on a late-life romance, she provides for Marilyn an example of how to pursue one’s own physical and emotional desires in the face of opposition. She is also instrumental in helping her son, Marilyn’s husband, recognize the ways in which his selfish behavior has harmed Marilyn in particular and the Grimes family as a whole.
Marilyn’s friends Paulette and Bunny are also invaluable sources of support for Marilyn. They combine unwavering support for Marilyn during her emotional distress with sometimes brutal honesty. Paulette’s hot and heavy romance with her second husband at once belies the myth of one true love and demonstrates the resilience of the heart. Bunny’s refusal to commit exemplifies the possibility of contentment...
(The entire section is 413 words.)