The date September 11, 2001, will likely remain seared in the minds of most Americans. When I read a synopsis of Belinda Nicoll’s memoir, Out of Sync, and learned that she and her husband landed at JFK International Airport on 9/11, something pulled at my heartstrings and I knew I had to read her story.
Belinda’s story, however, deals with so much more than that one frightening incident in New York and the aftermath in the days that followed.
Belinda had been on a roller coaster before arriving in America. Born in South Africa the youngest, and unexpected, child of an Afrikaner family, she grew up alongside the black house servant’s daughters. Together, they used their imaginations to create a fantasy land which included the Serpent Goddess who made promises never realized. Blissfully unaware of their country’s politics and comingupheaval, the girls became like sisters.
Still very young, Belinda married an attorney in the law firm where she worked. Together they had two children — a daughter and a son — before their marriage crumbled. Belinda then climbed the ranks at an advertising agency where she met her second husband, Bruce.
It is with Bruce that Belinda makes the move across the ocean to America. Not once did she even think that she would never be able to go back to her homeland, until things began a bumpy ride beginning with their landing at JFK on 9/11.
Once in San Francisco Bruce landed a job with an ad agency but worked long hours tackling the learning curve. Belinda’s solitary time at home because of her green card status left her feeling alone and abandoned at times. Delays by the U.S. Department of State in issuing green cards was more than difficult for Bruce and Belinda, and I find it an embarrassment that such inefficiencies and complacency exist.
Removed from her children and other family members made life more difficult emotionally for Belinda, something it seemed hard for Bruce to cope with at times. This reader never doubted their love for one another; it seemed from time to time they were working at cross-purposes.
After many job changes and moves from the west coast through the mid west and then upstate New York, they find themselves in Raleigh, NC. This part of Belinda’s story resonated with me, especially her descriptions of the people, their colloquialisms, and their behavior toward outsiders and their believes. Growing up in the South made no difference when I moved from a large city to a small town within the same state. I was looked upon as “suspicious” because no one knew me and who knew why I’d come. I felt that Belinda and Bruce felt this same alienation when they arrived in Raleigh.
Basically, this is a story of seeking common ground in the midst of a relationship cemented by love but fragmented by unrelenting circumstances created by outside forces. Belinda’s tenacious desire to make their lives work in synchronicity shines through on each page turn. Bruce is not denied his part in attempting again and again to pull the pieces of their lives together and repair hurts and inadequacies.
Belinda’s ability to share the sheer truth of her story is amazing, not only because it is possible to sense that it is the truth that you’re reading but also because the writer has honored character development, story line, and dialogue which is utterly believable and moving.
Out of Sync is a story of healing and an excellent model of what memoir writing is.