Ada’s Rules – Alice Randall
Reviewed By: Sheri de Grom
Ada’s Rules by Alice Randall is a novel I’d never have picked up in a bookstore and I’d have missed a great read. Thankfully, I read a terrific review somewhere and I was persuaded to try Ada’s Rules. I’m trying to give credit to reviewers who convince me I really should purchase a book. After all, that’s the greatest praise many of us who review books pro bono can receive—discovering readers purchase books based on our reviews.
Ada’s Rules by Alice Randall is an interesting novel in that it is a woman’s journey through weight loss and the intimate observations she learns about herself. But, perhaps even more important, Alice Randall weaves into the story critical information about the dangers of obesity and the destruction to not only the body but also the spirit.
Ada’s Rules opens as Ada receives an announcement of her upcoming college reunion. Ada’s husband of twenty-five years, Preach, takes her for granted these days and she’s tired of it. Ada wants to look good for her upcoming college reunion and here she is weighing in at two-hundred plus pounds. She especially wants to look good for the boy who got away, Mat Mason.
From the first page, Ada is a relatable character. Not only is she out of touch with her own body, she knows she must make changes immediately.
. . . Pg4 [This body was largely unknown to her. She had never pushed this body to its limits of exertion or its limits of pleasure. She had rarely looked at it. She shivered at the unfamiliarity of her own fat, flesh, and skin.] . . .
Ada’s days are full. She takes care of her elderly parents, is the first lady of her husband’s church, takes on endless thankless duties within the church, runs her own day care business, watches over her mother-in-law, and although her twin daughters have recently graduated from college; Ada makes it her responsibility to ensure they are entering the adult world safely and with assurance. The final nuisance hanging over her—she’s convinced Preach is having an affair and probably more than one.
The college reunion announcement stays in Ada’s mind. The boy who got away is the chairman and he’s scratched through his printed signature and written, “Honey Babe” and “It’s been too long.” Mat Mason didn’t talk like that. But he had. Now. After twenty-odd years, a pen-on-paper wink. And had come from her first love.
As Ada contemplates her diet, and Alice Randall—without being intrusive—includes information that one out of four black women over forty-five have diabetes. We also know from the story that Ada’s three older sisters have died from weight-related complications. Ada’s a fun woman but she is more than serious about the weight-loss issue and she faces it head-on.
. . . Pg9 [She didn’t want to go to her grave not knowing the difference between her man and men. She didn’t want to lead her daughters to Sugarland, or Strokeland, or even just Baby-and-No-Man-land.
She would shift herself into a more helpful shape. She had shifted shape before. She was not a complete diet virgin. In the past, she had tried to use her willpower. Ada had a lot of willpower. She would pick a diet, almost at random, and she would stick to it almost perfectly, for a week or maybe two. When it didn’t work, she would stop abruptly, eat something to comfort herself in defeat, think about big Botero sculpture-women and Hawaiian princesses, and wonder if society wasn’t just conditioning her into thinking she should be smaller when she was meant to be large.
Except she wasn’t sure she was meant to be large. And she knew she wasn’t meant to be suspicious. But she was both.] . . .
Ada decides if she is to have a weight-loss program she must begin with walking a mile a day. She hopes it will take only thirty minutes but she’ll do it even if it takes forty-five. No matter what, she will do it.
Sixty minutes later, we find Ada with blisters on the top of her toes, chafed inner thighs, and oh, yes, that old bra? Well it goes straight to the burn bin. Next up, a shopping list for being successful: running shoes, a sports bra, running shorts, running socks, and a treadmill.
Unfortunately reality soon hits home. Ava is too poor to get skinny. Or not.
Ada visits her doctor, a luxuriously large woman herself. The doctor doesn’t think there’s much Ada can do about her weight unless she wants to have ‘the’ surgery or wait for new drugs to be approved.
The doctor advises Ada it isn’t her fault she’s obese. The doctor says, “Its genes and stress and corn syrup in everything. And food pornography, everywhere we look, creating appetite. Man wasn’t built for this much prosperity.”
Ada has enough negativity on the weight-loss issue. She decides to make some rules for herself: (1) get eight hours sleep every night, (2) drink eight glasses of water a day, and (3) walk eight miles each week.
At times Ada takes baby steps and, at others, her determination to lose weight cannonballs past those she loves until they finally see her determination, whether or not they support her decision.
Alice Randall has created Ada with engaging optimism along with intense moods and emotions.
. . . Pg48 [She grabbed a giant grocery cart, then rolled it back and grabbed a medium cart. If she couldn’t be immediately smaller, her grocery cart could be smaller. She could have a skinny woman’s cart. It was a small satisfaction. It was not enough satisfaction to distract her from immediate hunger.] . . .
In her rare free time, Ada Googles the words diet and weight loss. She must find the time to live her own life.
Ada’s adheres to her program and learns new ways of living that have a positive impact on her weight-loss effort. She’s discovers she must eat while sitting down. If she doesn’t, she gains back the weight she’s worked so hard to lose.
Later that month, Ada receives a text from the college alumni office—Mat Mason will be passing through her town tomorrow and would like to take her to lunch.
. . . Pg132 [Over her almonds and yogurt she asked herself, why? Going to see Mason didn’t make sense. She wasn’t ready yet. She had lost thirty-four pounds, not seventy, not a hundred. She didn’t want him to see her midstream at 186. She had wanted an “aha moment” when he could look at her and say, “Umph, the years have been good to you, girl!” Except he would never say that.
Mason is a black man who has lived all his life among white people and plastic surgery and diets and prosperity—he’d expect her to look good at fifty. And now he lived in Tinseltown, La-La Land, Hollyweird. Every little bit she had fallen away from good would be a disappointment.] . . .
Ada repeats her mantra every day—eight hours sleep every night, eight glasses of water every day, walk for thirty minutes every day, eat protein and salad, drink only red wine and tequila. When in doubt, eat chicken and broccoli for dinner. Snack on unlimited amounts of sliced cucumbers. Eat something every three hours from eight to ten, then nothing from ten to eight.
I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t read Ada’s rules in one sitting. I read another novel along with it. I wanted to absorb some of Ada’s rules and see how they might apply to my own life.
The chapter headings might be out of any weight loss book—some reviews have called it a novel/diet book hybrid. There’s also some mystery thrown in. Will Ada reach her ideal weight? What disappointments meet her along the way? How will she handle her emerging sexuality and her minister husband—the man she believes is having affairs and to whom Ada has been married for over twenty-five years?
Ada’s weight loss is front and center in this story. When she visits her doctor months after her initial visit and her doctor has lost a noticeable amount of weight, Ada asks, “How did you do it?”
Her doctor replies, “I had the surgery.”
Ada is sad for her doctor. Ada knows the ups and downs she’s been through during her own transformation and the doctor will never have that experience. The emotional growth that comes from losing a large amount of weight is staggering.
I recommend this novel for anyone involved in a weight-loss battle or wanting to know how to support a friend or loved one. It’s also a fun read and I highly recommend it for book clubs.
The characters are as real as any we meet in our daily lives. Ada is a feisty woman determined to get the most of what life has to offer.