It is impossible not to fall in love with the plucky plus-size heroine of bestselling author Randall’s fourth outing (after Rebel Yell). When Ada Howard—wife of Lucius “Preach” Howard, the pastor of Nashville’s Full Love Gospel Tabernacle (whom Ada suspects of getting love not just from the Lord, but from another woman)—receives an invitation to her 25th college reunion, she takes the opportunity to reclaim the thin body she once had, in hopes of impressing her college sweetheart. Ada draws up a list of 53 sensible diet rules, and vows to follow every last one. Rule #1: “Don’t Keep Doing What You’ve Always Been Doing.” Randall uses each maxim as a chapter heading, leading readers deeper into Ada’s struggle and self-discovery while she drops the pounds. As Ada learns that any meaningful change must be made for one’s own self, she inspires and energizes those around her. A heartwarming and engaging read, Ada’s story is more than that—readers following Randall’s rules will drop the pounds along with Ada, and perhaps discover something about themselves.
Publisher's Weekly, March 12, 2012. Starred Review.
This isn't a diet book, and it's not a self-help title either. However, this new novel by the author of the New York Times best-selling The Wind Done Gone could be either (or both), as it follows the attractive yet overweight Ada Howard through her weight-loss journey. Suspicious of her preacher husband's busy schedule and fed up with his financial commitment to Full of Love Gospel Tabernacle, Ada decides to lose weight after receiving an invitation to her college reunion from her first love. She wants desperately to rekindle that connection, so she creates a list of rules to follow as she sheds pounds. Randall's honesty on life and change is refreshing, especially as she introduces characters who test and embolden Ada. A seemingly minor character offers the greatest moment of this novel; his story, woven almost imperceptibly into the narrative, shows the strength of Randall's storytelling. VERDICT Randall takes an ordinary weight-loss story and creates timeless personalities, demonstrating the challenges that we all face when reaching for a goal. The result will appeal to readers of diet, self-help, and chick-lit books.
Ashanti White, Library Journal. March 15, 2012
Ada Howard is on the brink of 50, wondering about the fidelity of her preacher husband and pondering an invitation to a school reunion. And she weighs 220 pounds. She has one year to lose weight, but it’s more than that. What should Ada do about her aging mother, who is losing her memories, except of three older daughters who died young of complications from diabetes? What should Ada do about her twin daughters, bright young women, a bit too plump, out in the world pondering the low prospects of marriage for black women? Ada appreciates the aesthetics of black beauty that allow for some heaviness, but now she needs to look hard at what those pounds might be covering up. She embarks on a yearlong search for all the ways she can get herself trim and healthy, substituting food with poetry or music as sources of pleasure and nourishment. At times, Randall’s novel reads like a black woman’s makeover book, but her keen observations of black culture and the human condition impart a true celebration of aging, health, and beauty in the context of one woman’s life.
High-demand backstory: Author of the New York Times best-selling The Wind Done Gone (2001), a controversial satire of Gone with the Wind, Randall is sure to draw plenty of attention for her latest offbeat novel.
Vanessa Bush, Booklist. March 15, 2012
When Alice Randall’s latest novel opens, Ada Howard weighs more than 200 pounds and, frankly, she likes her “big fatness.” So does her husband of 25-plus years, the overly generous pastor of their church. But Ada knows that being big and fat just isn’t healthy, and with her college reunion coming up, she wants to look good. Especially for the boy who got away, Matt Mason. Randall, whose controversial debut The Wind Done Gone was a slave’s take on Gone With the Wind, has no trouble plunging into touchy topics. In Ada’s Rules, she takes on weight loss and the politics of fat with rollicking humor, compassion and a touch of sadness. Ada is the youngest child of a blues musician and his wife. Her elderly parents are fading, and part of Ada’s determination to get healthy is because her three older sisters died too young from obesity-related issues. Then there are her adult twin daughters. They’re also sort of big. Maybe they should all start “healthing” together? But Ada starts to worry as the pounds begin to melt away. Will Preach still find her desirable? Will he even notice?
Ada’s Rules gives readers the pleasure of spending some time with a real person. So many women are facing struggles like Ada’s, and many of the laughs will come from recognition as well as humor. The novel, with its chapter headings straight out of weight loss books—it’s almost something of a novel/diet book hybrid—is also suspenseful. What’s going to happen when Ada reaches her ideal weight? Will she reach her ideal weight? We know she’s not going to have an affair with Matt Mason. Or will she? It’s a delight to read about someone so fully human. In Ada Howard, Randall has pulled off the tough trick of creating a truly relatable, deliciously complicated character.
Arlene McKanic, BookPage. April 2012