Out of Sync
written by Belinda Nicoll
published by Belinda Nicoll
About the book: In 2001, when the author and her new husband leave South Africa for a stay abroad, they land at JFK International Airport on September 11th, unprepared for the sight of smoke billowing from the Manhattan skyline or the horror of a second plane exploding into the North Tower.
Over the next ten years, as their host country confronts fundamental change of its own, their marriage buckles under the strain of their disparate experiences. With the international economic crisis making it all but impossible for them to return to their country, they relocate from California to the North, the South, and the Midwest searching for a place they can call home.
Against the backdrop of uncertainties in post-apartheid South Africa, Belinda Nicoll unfolds a contemporary and thought-provoking account of post-9/11 America’s tantalizing hopes and unexpected disappointments. Out of Sync is an insightful tale about marital endurance that promises to enthrall anyone, expatriate or not, who has ever felt at odds with themselves or the world.
Please enjoy the following excerpt from Out of Sync.
I left my country heedless of the possibility that I might never return. Ten years later, I appreciate the unforeseen trajectory of my life—before and after my relocation to America—in terms of certain phases, each composed of the gains and losses that affected me. I can finally accept the consequence of my expatriation seeing as the nagging sense of not belonging really stems from childhood. These days, being rootless is an integral part of how I choose to be.
Growing up, South Africa had as many facades as my family had quirks. As the youngest child, I had always felt like the laatlammetjie who did not quite fit into the kraal. I was born in the late 1950s in a famous mining village. My father, a burly man with piercing blue eyes and a booming voice, worked as a rigger at the Premier Diamond Mine in Cullinan, where the world’s biggest diamond had been found: the 3,106 carat Cullinan Diamond, pieces of which were set in the British Crown Jewels. Despite his belief in racial segregation, he was known by his black mining team as The White Lion, a symbol of courage he’d earned for his fierce protection of their well-being in the treacherous mines. When he died from a heart attack in 1991, I chose to remember him as a complex soul with callused mine-rigger hands who would weep at the beauty of the stars.
I guess that’s what younger generations do—they forgive the sins of the fathers, because they love their families.
I joined the Basson flock four years after my youngest brother, Michael. Three other brothers, Arnold, Andre, and Jan, were the rungs higher up in the ladder that led to my sister, Veronica, at the top. Although my father insisted on naming the boys after ancestral family members, my mother favored film-star names for her girls. Veronica Lake was an American pin-up model and my name was inspired by Belinda Lee, the British actress who rose to stardom in the movie Dangerous Exile in the year of my birth. Perhaps my soft-spoken mother had a premonition that I would be destined for either stardom or exile, since she knew how Fate worked: picking up a penny meant you would have good luck, while bad luck was sure to befall you if you passed underneath a ladder; and she’d always remind us to take care whenever the thirteenth day of the month fell on a Friday.
Although I had a perfectly delightful nickname—Lindy—my siblings liked to call me Little Miss Nuisance. But I did come in handy at times, they acknowledged, especially for our weekly movie treat when my mother sent the six of us off with a few shillings. Veronica, being the eldest and always acting like the queen of the castle, would request only five tickets at the booth. Jan, the second-in-command, took charge of buying our Coca Cola, Willards Chips, Beacon Licorice Allsorts, and Chappies Bubble Gum. Of course, one less ticket meant a lot more snacks, but it also meant I had to sit on their laps throughout the movie. Taking ten-minute turns, they’d whisper, “Time’s up,” and pass me from one lap to the next. Starting with Veronica, my journey would go like this: “Don’t tell mom, okay?” Then Jan: “Sit still, dammit.” Andre, who was the family’s joker, would always rock me on his knee, pinching my bottom or pulling my ear every now and then to make me giggle. From there I’d be passed to Arnold (the family’s hoity-toity artist): “Don’t you dare pee on me,” he’d say. I’d end with Michael, also known as Shorty: “I can’t see,” he’d whine, moving me this way and that, and before his ten minutes were over I’d go back to the don’t-you-dare-pee-on-me lap, and back up the row I’d travel.
Whenever the story is told at family reunions, my siblings crack up laughing, seemingly unaware of their unfair behavior at the time and the embarrassment it still causes me. But they tell it so lovingly, it’s easy to laugh with them. Besides, memories like those are the contours that shape my map of the world; they give insight into my actions, values, and beliefs; they tell me who I am. Living on different continents means family reunions can no longer be taken for granted, causing me to crave those reminders of the past even more.
Every Free Chance Book Reviews is pleased to welcome Belinda Nicoll, author of Out of Sync, to the blog today. She has prepared the following guest post for all of you.
Keeping in mind the increasing complexity of life in today’s global world, the classic maxim “the only constant is change” is as true as it’s ever been. As a life coach, I learned that change implies survival and growth, but that too little of it can cause people to be passive and their goals to lie fallow; on the other hand, too much change can feel overwhelming and even lead to chaos.
There’s no denying that we’re living in a world where people are migrating every which way to benefit from some opportunity elsewhere. Still, change comes with uncertainty and as an expat I’ve seen how adventure and excitement can quickly devolve into chaos and despair. Due to a series of desirable and dreadful events in a short span of time, I’ve had to be resilient to keep my life intact.
The thing is, evolution is about moving forward and, hence, Out of Sync demonstrates that change, however tumultuous, is always the most profound catalyst for personal development. As ‘change’ is the main theme of my book, I’ve also explored the concept on my blog in a series of guest posts titled “Change means … [fill in the blank].” It was interesting to see the different meanings various people attribute to this universal phenomenon. Imagine if you had to complete that sentence—what would your sentiment be?
About the author: Belinda Nicoll is originally from South Africa. She expatriated to the United States in 2001 and has been a citizen since 2010. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and works as a freelance writer and creativity coach. She is working on her first novel—an epic mystery set in South Africa and the US— that spans four generations and explores concepts of shamanism, archaeology, and intergenerational shame.
Belinda and her husband 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, Phuket, The Comores, St. Thomas, and St. John.
And now for the GIVEAWAY!! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win a signed copy of Out of Sync (US only) and 2 eBook copies of Out of Sync (INT).
Happy reading wherever you are and whenever you get a free chance!!!