Friday, April 5, 2013

Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

I had no expectations when I picked up Out of Nowhere and started reading it other than the casual recommendation of a friend.  Well, her recommendation wasn't so casual, she really really liked it and didn't want to influence my opinion.  Turns out, I really really liked it as well.

Tom Bouchard is a senior at Chamberlain high school in Enniston, Maine and the kind of character that is usually not the most interesting.  He is good-looking, a great soccer player, and a top student with very supportive parents.  But there is a crack in the perfection.  His girlfriend, Cherisse, is a shallow, whinny narcissistic girl who wants is complete attention and his best friend since childhood, Donnie, is a loser willing to get high on anything.  But Tom is a supportive kind of guy.

And it is a good thing because into the mix of people in his life come a young Somali refugee who is an ace soccer player.  Saeed and his family are part of the ever growing number of Muslim refugees settling down in Enniston, though not particularly welcomed there in light of 9/11.  To make matters worse, the mayor of Enniston had a letter published in the local paper asking Somalis' to tell other refugees not to come to Enniston, that there were already too many of them for the town to be able to cope with.

But Tom welcomes Saeed onto the soccer team with enthusiasm, believing that with him, Chamberlain has a fighting chance of beating their arch rivals Maquoit High School.  Things are looking pretty good to Tom.  That is, until the night Don convinces Tom to pull a prank and paint the Maquoit team's lucky rock, and they get caught.

Given community service at a center in the heart of Saeed's neighborhood, Tom becomes the new homework helper, working together with Saeed's older sister Samira, who makes it clear she does not like Tom at all,  and college student Myla, who is more fluid with her feelings about him.

Slowly, as their lives intersect, Tom begins to understand just how difficult and frightening the lives of the Somali refugees were before they came to the US and how poor and difficult their lives still are in a country where many don't want them and believe all Muslims are terrorists.  But when Tom innocently extends ordinary American kindness to Samira, there are terrible consequences for her and her family.  Tom must accept that Muslim culture and religion are intertwined and may not be as easily assimilated into American life as he thinks they should be.

Out of Nowhere is a real eye-opening novel.  It is a novel you would expect to be told from the point of view of Saeed, but instead it is narrated by Tom.  It is, after all, his story and his coming to consciousness that it is concerned with.  Saeed, though his story is important, is a catalyst here, the spark that brings Tom's insular life to an end and forces him to make changes and decisions which will ultimately set him apart from being just another stereotype.

This is a YA novel, so one should not be surprised that there is some real use of f-bombs throughout this novel (it is, after all, realistic fiction), and some sexual intimations, drinking and drug use.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was borrowed from a friend.

One of the more interesting points that Padian brings to like in Out of Nowhere is the immigration question surrounding the Somalis.  The mayor's letter is based on a real letter the real mayor, Robert MacDonald, had published in the Lewiston ME newspaper back in 2002.  It caused quite a hoopla among the people of Lewiston.  MacDonald was at it again when he told Somalis to assimilate, to leave their culture at the door when they come to the US.  What make Out of Nowhere doubly interesting is that Padian makes clear that make of the residents of Enniston have French-Canadian roots and had migrated to Maine for the same reasons as the Somalis - jobs and a better life.


  1. Sounds like a great book and much needed for our kids to understand the Muslim culture.

  2. Yes, this is a good book for kids to develope some understanding of Muslim culture and also to see some of the problems people face when they migrate to the US nowadays.

  3. Purchased this book for my daughter for summer reading and she loved it. Finished it in only a couple of day. Terrific read.


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