Nothing is Predictable, by Adalina Mae (Adalina Mae, Charleston, SC, 2017, 261 pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
February 3, 2017 (San Diego) - Adalina Mae, born in Los Angeles and with roots in Lebanon, has written an intriguing and insightful book about a complex woman named Zara that seems to center around her troubled and now deceased father. She speaks lovingly of her father, but shares intimate details of her childhood and relationship with her father that seems to reflect her current life. She speaks of therapy sessions brought about by early childhood experiences, some of which were quite troubling.
The author writes that her life incidents have taught her that nothing is predictable and nothing can last forever. The heroine in this well written book is Zara, who can easily be identified as Adalina Mae in her childhood.
Although this novel is classified as FICTION/Roman a Clef, or based on some true events, the author has indicated to this writer that the most significant parts are real. It seems contradictory for the author to state in the front pages of the book; “The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.” My reading of this book would lead me to think and believe otherwise, and that credit should go to how adept the author weaves this fanciful story.
Perhaps nothing more poignant and actually sets the theme of this book by Mae, is a statement made early on by her; “They say your perception on life is developed between the ages of zero and seven. I often wonder about mine: waking up to guns being fired in the house, an abusive father who almost killed my mother numerous times in front of me, and being sexually molested twice under the age of eight. All my life, I have felt ripped off because I did not have a normal childhood. I get annoyed when I see kids being pampered and treated fragilely over minor incidents, when at the same age, I was battling to survive.” This actually sets the stage for what the author feels is important to tell in her book, although I feel is more profound.
Zara is a vibrant, funny, resilient American-Lebanese woman struggling with a traumatic past. Her father, in a drunken rampage, accidentally shoots himself dead, leaving his ‘princess’ of eight years old to battle through her life carrying the responsibility of fatherly duties. At least, this is the initial presumption in this book.
She (Zara) is torn between the memory of his benevolence and the drunken, violent, incoherent alcoholic she views as a ‘monster’. With his death begins Zara’s long journey of haunted nightmares and struggles, along with exhausting relationships and self-discovery until one day, Zara discovers some disturbing news.
The author takes us on a journey through the States, Lebanon, and Europe, on hilarious escapades with various gorgeous men, interspersed with sad, heartbreaking moments: this is life and nothing is predictable. Zara ends her story with a mystery to solve: Why does she have recurrent nightmares of her last night with her father?
This book by Mae actually resonates with me for many and profound reasons, some of which are similar to my daughter Brandy at the same eight years old as Zara’s father left her, for her to battle through life carrying the responsibility of fatherly duties.
Particularly disturbing in this book is Zara being continually raped and molested at an early age, by an older man in the building that she lived in with her family, and later at the age of seven by some young boys while she was outside picking flowers. She rationalized and attempted to explain it this way: “Another molesting incident occurred to me at the age of seven. I remain perplexed to this very day about this incident. All my life, even with the help of therapy, I have struggled to remember what actually happened to me. My brain seems to have blocked out the event, leaving only flashing images. Deep down, I have always felt the worst must have happened.”
Not claiming to be a therapist myself, clearly by reading the author’s book, the central theme of her novel seems to be these early childhood experiences in her life. The author actually states and admits in her insightful book; “My childhood experiences had shaped me with a somewhat warped understanding of what passion and love were”, possibly alluding to Zara’s childhood rapes and sexual molestation. She made this statement in context with her first love, Jamal.
My having written earlier reviews of M.J. Payne’s The Remembered Self, Joyce Reed’s Hurt Used to Live Here, Cortina Jackson’s On Earth As It Is In Hell and Mary Elizabeth Bullock’s Judging Me, all of which involved these women being abused and sexually molested by men at an early age, Mae’s book resonates with me and should also with other readers of her book, for very profound reasons. In the aforementioned cases with Joyce Reed and Mary Elizabeth Bullock, their being sexually molested by their own fathers seems to still have a lasting impact on their lives, as indicated to me in my many interviews and communications with them during the course of my writing the reviews of their books. Who is to say what those early instances of sexual molestations written about in Mae’s book had on the life of Zara?
Although the author writes about the numerous fun filled adventures and escapades of Zara in this book with the likes of Jamal and Tariq, two Muslims, as well as many other men, there seems to be an underlying theme of unhappiness and emptiness in Zara’s life brought about by distrust. The significance of mentioning Jamal and Tariq as being Muslim, is the fact that Zara’s Christian family and upbringing would have been opposed to Zara’s involvement with a Muslim. As a matter of fact, after her family had warned Zara against getting involved with Tariq, she went ahead and married him, and the marriage would later end in divorce after Zara caught him in bed with another woman in their own home. This is just one of many instances in this book that Zara made the wrong choices in men.
Clearly, Zara likes men, as specifically stated in this book: “Slap a set of male biceps in my face and man, do my legs go week.” One such man that comes to mind is Livio, whom Zara refers to as a “Swiss God.” Her infatuation with Livio in this book was actually overboard!
We all have demons in our lives that we must face from time to time, just as Zara did throughout Nothing Is Predictable, and there is a particular passage in this book that resonated with me the most; “Yes, very angry, I hate him for what he did to Mum and all of us, he ruined our family. I’m very angry at him for leaving us and not being there for us. I needed my father growing up but he was so irresponsible not to do the right thing by his family so of course I’m angry with him.” I actually cried after the reading this, for it reminded me of something my now 23-year-old daughter Brandy said to me several years ago, but more specifically; “I was the reason that she had so many problems with guys.” It actually reads a lot like Zara’s failed relationships with guys in this book. Also, and just as Zara had these recurring nightmares about her father throughout this book, I actually had a nightmare just last night about my family, and my not being there for them as Brandy had wanted and expected.
Perhaps of all the men that Zara was involved with, and caused her the most pain and distrust of men, Leandro comes to mind. Zara was actually engaged to marry him, only to find out about a series of lies and deception, including the fathering of a 5-year old. This proved to be devastating to her psyche, especially in conjunction with the recurring nightmares surrounding the circumstances of her father’s death. Zara’s mother, who she affectionately referred to as “Mum”, and before she found out what a scoundrel Leandro was – stated to her daughter facetiously; “If you ever let this one go, I swear I will disown you!” Zara sought out Buddhism and a Gypsy after this debacle to help get answers. Zara specifically stated to the Buddhist disciple: “I wanted to discuss the nightmares of my father and the inability of dealing with my childhood molestation, so I could put it all behind me.”
Outside of the documented circumstances and failures that Zara had with men, and understandably so, she did lead a successful life as a businessperson, singer and dancer, as well as martial arts enthusiast. There is also a fun loving side to Zara demonstrated when she gets together with her girlfriends, sort of a Sex in the City scene, giving rise to thoughts of a movie or TV show for this book – with Zara starring in the role of Samantha.
Perhaps the most profound and insightful statement made by Zara in this book, occurred when she traveled thousands of miles to Lebanon where her father was buried, whom she had not seen in 28 years, and stated; “Maybe that was the reason I was attracting the wrong men in my life. I had anger and ‘Daddy’ issues to deal with. I was attracting everything that reminded me of Dad: trauma, drama, betrayal, and loss.” I could easily say this about my own daughter Brandy also. And speaking of daughters, this book reminds me so much of noted singer John Mayer's song "Daughters" which you can listen to here.
There is so much to this story written by the author that possibly requires the help of an analyst or therapist to help understand. Without giving too much of the story away, suffice it to say, this well written book will certainly keep your attention and is worthy of a movie, particularly with Zara ending the story with a mystery to solve. This is a book that I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @Denni