Ada’s Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel

By Alice Randall

(Bloomsbury, $24, 352 pages)

Who is this author?

Alice Randall’s first novel blew up a storm of controversy. “The Wind Done Gone” was a bold re-imagining of Margaret Mitchell’s classic “Gone With the Wind,’ told from the point of view of Cynara, the half-black half-sister of Scarlett O’Hara. While critics and many readers hailed its originality, many others, devoted fans of GWTW, hated the book for its perspective, use of slave dialect and its very existence. Mitchell’s estate sued Randall and her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, delaying publication of the book. The suit eventually was settled and “The Wind Done Gone” became a best-seller.

Randall, a Harvard graduate, was born in Detroit, grew up in Washington, D.C. and now lives in Nashville, where she is writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University Her other books are “Pushkin and the Queen of Spades” and “Rebel Yell.” She is also a successful country music songwriter. Her collaboration with singer Trisha Yearwood, “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)” was a 1994 No. 1 country hit, a first for a black songwriter.

Here’s what Randall says about her work on her website

“…I am particularly interested in depictions of the African-American experience of: motherhood, reading and being southern. In my work I balance these concerns with the questions: Is there an African-American experience of motherhood? Of reading? Is there “southern-ness” that is not inherently African? Above and beyond ponderings of race, I am interested in defining, examining, and depicting “the good mother.”

“…I am deeply intrigued by the problems and possibilities that began to arise when southern rural blacks migrated to the industrial North, including the particular difficulties encountered by black Americans when they seek to return home.

     “My abiding interest in and appreciation of country music song lyric and southern foodways inform my understanding of the South and is informed by my understanding of the South. More and more my subject has become the black woman’s body.”

What is this book about?

A black woman and how she feels about her body are at the heart of “Ada’s Rules.” Ada is a preacher’s wife in Nashville, overburdened with her work, worries about her husband’s faithfulness, issues with her daughters and the care of her elderly parents –  and with the 100 pounds she has put on since graduating from college. Now, with her 25th reunion approaching, Ada resolves to remake herself physically, which also will change her life in other ways. To do so, she creates rules for herself, the first one being: “Don’t Keep Doing What You’ve Always Been Doing.”

Why you’ll like it:

“Ada’s Rules” is a novel, not a self-help or diet book, but it can be read for advice and inspiration as well as for its lively story. While you follow Ada’s journey, which is rewarding and fun to read about, you can use her rules to shed unwanted poundage and burdens of your own.

What others are saying:

“It is impossible not to fall in love with the plucky plus-size heroine of bestselling author Randall’s fourth outing… A heartwarming and engaging read, Ada’s story is more than that—readers following Randall’s rules will drop the pounds along with Ada, and perhaps discover something about themselves,” – says Publishers Weekly in a starred review.

“[Randall’s] keen observations of black culture and the human condition impart a true celebration of aging, health, and beauty in the context of one woman’s life,” says  Booklist.

“…Randall’s honesty on life and change is refreshing, especially as she introduces characters who test and embolden Ada. A seemingly minor character offers the greatest moment of this novel; his story, woven almost imperceptibly into the narrative, shows the strength of Randall’s storytelling. Randall takes an ordinary weight-loss story and creates timeless personalities, demonstrating the challenges that we all face when reaching for a goal,” says Library Journal.

 “…The novel, with its chapter headings straight out of weight loss books—it’s almost something of a novel/diet book hybrid—is also suspenseful. What’s going to happen when Ada reaches her ideal weight? Will she reach her ideal weight? We know she’s not going to have an affair with Matt Mason. Or will she? It’s a delight to read about someone so fully human. In Ada Howard, Randall has pulled off the tough trick of creating a truly relatable, deliciously complicated character,” says Arlene McKanic in BookPage.

When is it available?

You can follow “Ada’s Rules” with a copy from the Downtown Hartford Public Library or the Albany or Mark Twain branches.

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