Terry McMillan (credit: Steven Henry/Getty Images)

Terry McMillan (credit: Steven Henry/Getty Images)

(CBS SF/AP) – Berkeley alumni and author Terry McMillan treads familiar territory in her latest novel, “Who Asked You?” Four sisters and their families struggle through life, love and real-world crises.

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Once again, the author of “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” creates a memorable and realistic, if not entirely likable, cast of characters – featuring strong women who also are wives and mothers. They face contemporary problems – drug addiction, incarceration, Alzheimer’s, homosexuality – in imperfect ways. And that’s what makes their stories so realistic and their personalities so empathetic.

At nearly 400 pages, “Who Asked You?” is a breeze to read despite the heavy themes. The sisters and their families become neighbors, almost friends, to readers, and it’s hard to let them go as the book nears its conclusion.

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As usual, McMillan’s dialogue is spot on, and her understanding of pop culture infuses her story with unparalleled realism.

McMillan does nothing new here, but why should she? Her books tell richly textured, insightful and funny family stories. It’s what she does best.

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