Book Review – Out of Sync

PrintfrontcoverLife is full of surprises. It is so nasty sometimes that you’ll get ‘out of sync.’ Belinda Nicoll’s memoir, “Out of Sync,” details exactly how topsy-turvy one’s life can be. One moment you’re up, the next moment you’re down. It’s a never-ending cycle that will refuse to halt, until maybe in your final days. I found this 320-page book, available in ebook and paperback format, on the Novel Blogs reading list. A new life with a new husband in a new land is simply something worth a read, especially if it’s one of the magnified examples of how big political changes, such as the 9/11, affect the small units of our society.

 

What Is It About?

It’s hard to explain what Out of Sync is all about. Depending on who’s reading, it can be about a husband-wife relationship, personal discovery and development, life changes and chances, making choices, planning or non-planning, going with the flow, coming of age, meeting people, and everything in between. In general, it is an expatriate adventure in the midst of political turmoil. But readers of all ages, races, and issues can surely find something to relate to in this book.

My description may be a little confusing, but trust me, the book is not. It is surprising that it has covered almost all issues that everyone is facing—sibling relationship, parenthood, childhood, marriage, separation, and moving on—and without leaving the reader confused. For me, reading the memoir is like entering the author’s portion of life and taking a part of it. It is a good example of how one’s own struggles can very much relate to the bigger picture that the world is facing. It’s not only the apartheid in Africa or the 9/11 attack in 2001, but also the environmental issues and the cultural changes.

Example of apartheid. Photo from Creative Commons.

Example of apartheid. Photo from Creative Commons.

 

The 9/11 Attack. Photo from Creative Commons.

The 9/11 Attack. Photo from Creative Commons.

Writing Style

You’ll find yourself reading about one thing in the first paragraph and suddenly read about another thing in the next. I am not bothered. In fact, it is like magic, shifting from one general thought to a more specific one. The author is very good at keeping the stories flowing without messing up the reading pace. She’s even better at making the reader believe that their plan will work out only to find out that it is another great disappointment. The feeling shared to the reader becomes very raw.

Juanita eagerly awaited her eighteenth birthday when she would legally qualify for her driver’s license, a requirement of the au pair program in the United States. The au pair were being sent off to their various host countries at two-week intervals. We figured she’d be prepared with her driver’s license, visa, and host family contract in time to leave by the end of January.

However, we were wrong to assume we were in control of our destinies—Juanita failed the driving test…

…her misfortune would cost her a whole year. Then she called sometime during April to tell me she’d failed for the fourth time…

“To hell with America,” she said after that. “I’m changing my application for Europe.”

There are more similar examples to this that will explain how their original plan to settle in San Francisco for a year became a decision to stay in the US for good, and how everything went in disarray again, which made them decide to stay in South Africa. But after a visit, this too has changed, and they went back to the US, settling in from one state to another. The twists and turns are the biggest factor for the book’s entertainment value.

 

Heartbreaking and Surprisingly Humorous

Included in the ups and downs of the memoir are the heartbreaking scenes that will surely tear your heart apart—from separating from your children, feeling worthless for your floating career, to that point of wanting to die but death has also given up on you.

The thought of being excluded from the next chapter of my daughter’s life overwhelmed me. I sobbed until my head ached and my knees felt weak, when there were no more tears left to expel, when I got that I could not undo the transformation of my life because it had already undone what I cared about most.

Here’s one more about intense anger:

I accused him of duplicity, hoping my words would stab at his heart, his mind, his soul; all the while I imagined poking out his eyes, slashing his face, crushing his skull, breaking his spine.

There may be times that Out of Sync will make you cry, but there are also times that it will make you laugh. Some scenes are really hilarious that I think the memoir has all the right to be labeled as comical.

…thanks to my sorry coordination, my limbs just refused to work together in any kind of artistic pattern. “I luv doin da hula,” someone to the left of me shrieked with delight. I wanted to shout back “Screw da hula! I’m gonna kill Lu,” but I needed every bit of air in my lungs to keep up with the jiggling crowd…

And yet another one:

As we stepped outside, the shock of the intense cold immobilized our brains—Bruce could not remember where to find the rental car, and I forgot how to use my legs for walking.

Sorry for being a spoiler. But there’s more to read in Out of Sync, so don’t worry.

 

Point of View

One of authors travels, although not mentioned in the book. Photo from http://myriteofpassage.wordpress.com.

One of authors travels, although not mentioned in the book. Photo from http://myriteofpassage.wordpress.com.

Out of Sync is more than just an expatriate adventure. It can be a book with numerous mini travelogues. The author and her husband share a common passion for traveling. It will bring you from the Halloween spectacles of San Francisco and the West Coast road trips to the below-freezing condition in New York.

San Francisco’s Halloween parade is a total cartoon show and a night of adult revelry. Excitement pulsed in the neighborhood from late afternoon as witches, spiders, vampires, magicians, and devils popped onto the sidewalks. The tradition had never caught on in South Africa, making us newcomers to the celebration.

At Santa Cruz, we learned that the liberal community stands for freedom with a capital-F, from vehement support for medical marijuana to fierce opposition to war.

Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada is a primitive wilderness with a tranquil charm, made up of giant sequoias, cascading waterfalls, and granite cliffs, complete with rock climbers dangling thousands of feet above the ground, as if putting on a show especially for us.

Strangers in America will find notes about the differences of every city or state helpful, not only in the tradition or celebrations, but also in culture and community beliefs.

 

Rating

Out of Sync is an entertaining read that’s educational at the same time. Readers will never find a dull moment with words, beautifully stitched together. The author’s years of hard work are evident. Different emotions will be triggered. Experiences of different people will also turn on possible forgotten wounds. If there’s one thing I’d like to suggest in case there will be a new edition is to have translations for the African words used in the memoir. Those strange words look like codes, as if the author is trying to keep a secret. I just skipped them and never bothered Google. Still, I am delighted, entertained, by this book. It is worth every minute of every reader’s time, and it’s certainly worth all the stars I can give.

It was amazing!

It was amazing!

 

Conclusion

Belinda Nicoll’s book is highly recommended for every expat from any part of the world, to know you’re not alone with all the cursing and cussing due to inevitable culture shock. It’s also a good read for struggling couples and coming-of-age parents. It’s an inspirational book for both the younger and older audience, giving them the chance to peek at what life can be when you dive into opportunities or when you wait and see. Everyone will learn that no matter what, when, or where, life always goes on.

 

About the Author

Belinda NicollBelinda Nicoll is originally from South Africa and has been a citizen of the United States since 2010. She and her husband, Bruce, love traveling and share a keen interest in cultural diversity. Their journeys and careers have taken them through large parts of Southern Africa and America, Europe, Ireland, Canada, the Middle East, Mexico, and to exotic islands such as Mauritius, The Comores, St. Thomas, and St. John.

Belinda holds a BA degree in the social sciences and an MFA in Creative Writing. She was a talent agent and drama coach before venturing into the advertising world as copywriter. These days, she works as a teacher of creative writing and is writing her first novel, an epic mystery set in South Africa and the United States.

Website: My Rite of Passage
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