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Chances Are . . .: A novel by Richard Russo

Chances Are . . .: A novel (2019)

by Richard Russo

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2232080,203 (4.09)10
"From the Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Russo--in his first stand-alone novel in a decade--comes a new revelation: a gripping story about the abiding yet complex power of friendship. One beautiful September day, three sixty-six-year old men convene on Martha's Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college circa the sixties. They couldn't have been more different then, or even today--Lincoln's a commercial real estate broker, Teddy a tiny-press publisher, and Mickey a musician beyond his rockin' age. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971. Now, forty-four years later, as this new weekend unfolds, three lives and that of a significant other are displayed in their entirety while the distant past confounds the present like a relentless squall of surprise and discovery. Shot through with Russo's trademark comedy and humanity, Chances Are. also introduces a new level of suspense and menace that will quicken the reader's heartbeat throughout this absorbing saga of how friendship's bonds are every bit as constricting and rewarding as those of family or any other community. For both longtime fans and lucky newcomers, Chances Are. is a stunning demonstration of a highly acclaimed author deepening and expanding his remarkable achievement"--… (more)



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Richard Russo has been always been a reliable writer to deliver excellent novels about regular everyday characters who are shown to have a lot of heart in how they live their lives. He loves to wrap a story around characters the reader will care about, characters that you can literally feel their humanity. I think that Russo has a special quality in his writing to explore and show how men feel and act as they do through life. He’s always spot-on for what motivates different types of men. I feel that he has written a very special novel with Chances Are…, one that has stayed fresh in my mind days after finishing that last page.
In his latest novel, we have three sixty-six year old men--Teddy, Lincoln, and Mickey--who get together in a family cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, to ponder where they’ve gone in their lives (commercial real estate in Las Vegas, rock musician, and a small-press publisher and want-to-be writer) after attending the same small college back in the 1970s. They always kidded themselves about being comrades, like the Three Musketeers. All three worked at a sorority, and all three were in love with the same free-spirited hippie girl, Jacy.
Russo has written a book that’s as close to a mystery as he’s ever gotten. So much of the book revolves around these men thinking back forty years, to the last time they gathered at this same cottage, with Jacy, in 1971. That was the last time they saw her, before she completely disappeared. Their fascination and longing for this beautiful young woman from their youth, is the center of many of their thoughts, fantasies, and conversations during their island reunion. They go so far as to get the local newspaper and the island’s former chief of police checking into Jacy’s disappearance. The focus of suspicion includes both island residents, and our three main characters. The mystery of her disappearance is revealed in a sad story from an unsuspected source.
The sensitive writing reveals how these three men have dealt with their longings for this young woman who has often filled their heads over those many years. When the truth is finally revealed to them, these three men in their sixties have to come to grips with their part in the story, as well as what it means to lose the mystery and any future possibilities with Jacy, and what the truth means to them and their relationship with each other.
I found this a very satisfying book, as I found myself feeling a certain kinship with these very different men. Amusing, entertaining, heart-felt, surprising, and being left feeling very close to the story’s characters—what more can a book be expected to deliver? This is one of the best books by one of my favorite writers. ( )
  jphamilton | Sep 19, 2019 |
Enjoyable read about 3 guys approaching old age and reflecting on what was and what might have been different. ( )
  ghefferon | Sep 13, 2019 |
Excellent book. I would give it more than five stars if I could. It's a goldmine of quotes. I almost hunted for them to add them but it's better if you find the ones that mean a lot to you. And you will. The author does not disappoint. ( )
  lisa875 | Sep 13, 2019 |
Quick enjoyable read. Just not up to the Richard Russo standard. ( )
  belmarchris | Aug 28, 2019 |
Russo has always been one of my favorite authors. Nobody's Fool, Empire Grill, Straight Man are some of my all time favorites. His newest novel Chances Are tells the story of three college buddies who used to work as hashers in a sorority house in a liberal arts college in the northeast. They watched in 1969 as their numbers were called for the draft and as one of them, Mickey, was number nine, meaning you're either going to Vietnam or Canada. Lincoln and Teddy, the main narrators of the story were more fortunate. All three are in love with a girl named Jacy who is out of their league but seems to enjoy their company. At the end of college when they all decide to spend one last weekend at Martha's Vineyard, Lincoln's family getaway, Jacy disappeared. Though it was assumed she was running out on a future wedding, her absence was never resolved. Now at 66, forty years later, the three musketeers return to that same summer house and hash out what has happened to their lives. Russo does a nice job with the descriptions of the aging friends, the choices they made and the realizations they have discovered. All three have interesting father figures who have factored into who they have become. " The thing to understand about your father... is that you always have a choice. You can do things his way, or you can wish you had."
As the novel turns a bit into a detective story, family secrets and rekindled animosities take over the narrative and maybe stray away from what Russo does best, but in all this is a pleasant read. The novel has a Big Chill feel to it.
Some lines:
The solid earth beneath his feet had turned to sand, and his parents, the two most familiar people in his life, into strangers. In time he would regain his footing, but he would never again entirely trust it.

By sixteen, sneaking into raunchy New Haven bars and sitting in with older guys whose girlfriends didn’t wear bras and seemed to enjoy revealing this fact by bending over in front of Mickey, who would later joke with Lincoln and Teddy that he had a hard-on for all of 1965.

Maybe this was the unstated purpose of education, to get young people to see the world through the tired eyes of age: disappointment and exhaustion and defeat masquerading as wisdom.

What made the contest between fate and free will so lopsided was that human beings invariably mistook one for the other, hurling themselves furiously against that which is fixed and immutable while ignoring the very things over which they actually had some control.

The suspense may carry you through the first half of the novel, but what works better is Russo’s depiction of his central characters, with their father issues and insecurities about class and money, their ingrained cluelessness about women and their need to present a certain image to the world, even if they’re pretty sure the world couldn’t care less.

Chances Are…” is, at heart, less a mystery than an evocation of what happens when you subscribe to “the peculiarly male conviction that silence conveyed one’s feelings better than anything else.” When Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey are finally forced to speak about those feelings, they discover that “the membrane separating sympathy from pity could be paper thin.” Is it possible the weekend will be, as Teddy wonders, “a misguided attempt to preserve something already lost”? ( )
  novelcommentary | Aug 28, 2019 |
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For a second there we won. 
Yeah, we were innocent and young.
"Miss Atomic Bomb," The Killers
For those whose names are on the wall
First words
The three old friends arrived on the island in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, practically cross-country from Las Vegas; Teddy, a small-press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer, from nearby Cape Cod.
Because yank out one thread from the fabric of human destiny, and everything unravels. Though it could also be said that things have a tendency to unravel regardless.
The deeper and longer something remained buried, the more power it had when it finally rose to the surface.
What you can't afford to lose is precisely what the world robs you of. How it  knew what you needed the most , just so it could deny you that very thing, was a question for the philosophers.
"The thing to understand about your father... is that you always have a choice. You can do things his way, or you can wish you had."
What can't be true, isn't...no matter how much you want it to be.
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