Maria Padian’s new novel Out of Nowhere captures the truth of the adage that the only thing constant in life is change. Padian’s protagonist, high school senior and soccer team captain Tom Bouchard, experiences the futility of one’s efforts at controlling outcomes. He discovers how even a simple action or choice can have far-reaching repercussions and realizes that luck can “curl up next to you one minute, then bite you the next” (275).
Enniston,Maine, provides the backdrop for this novel that explores these issues, as well as the contemporary topic of cultural collisions. Tom’s quiet hometown becomes the home to an influx of Somalian refugees who have survived a civil war and transatlantic migration only to face more conflict when certain townspeople exhibit less than hospitable reactions to their new neighbors. When the local soccer team—with the talent of its Somali teammates—begins to win and threatens to take State, additional conflict ensues.
Padian’s novel also examines the truth that trouble and tragedy befall us all, although some people go out looking for them. At the coaxing of his partner in crime, Donnie Plourde, Tom agrees to vandalize the cross town rival’s spirit rock, a decision that earns him groundation and one hundred hours of community service at K Street Center. At the center, he learns the challenges, idiosyncrasies, religious and cultural taboos of his Somali neighbors for whom he provides homework help. For Samira, Saeed, and Abdi, some things are haram (forbidden); others are halal (acceptable). Here, he also meets Myla, aMumfordCollege student dedicated to social justice. She exemplifies what Tom’s dad calls “an angel in this world” (254). Together, Tom and Myla provide a voice for those marginalized by ignorance and fear. Tom realizes that “things get a little more complicated when you know somebody’s story. . . .it is hard to fear someone or be cruel to them, when you know their story” (254). He also learns how well the truth stacks up against what people want to believe. Tom compares sparring with such people to boxing smoke: “I couldn’t land a punch and I couldn’t see clearly” (320).
Through Tom, readers accept that life hurts and it’s hard, but that unless we put aside our fury and have hope, life can’t progress positively. Winning begins with attitude and with our choices. Inevitably life will throw curves; they’ll come out of nowhere, but these challenges are best met by adapting with grace since raging only makes life harder.
- Posted by Donna