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Chances Are..... (2019)

by Richard Russo

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4533438,820 (4)21
"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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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Chances are tells the story of three college friends in their 60s who meet on Martha's Vineyard for a reunion. Lincoln is a commercial real estate broker, Teddy is a publisher of religious materials and Mickey is a musician. Being on Martha's Vineyard brings back memories of Jacy Rockafellow, a college girl all three of them were in love with. The four of them spent a last weekend together on the island after graduation before Jacy went missing, never to be heard from again. As the weekend reunion proceeds, bits and pieces of a backstory and the mystery of Jacy's disappearance are revealed. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Apr 14, 2020 |
I've become accustomed to a Russo novel having, sometimes, a slow start that shifts gears somewhere around the middle as the protagonist becomes mired in his own flailing, misguided, well-meant attempts to get out of whatever mess he has fallen into, but this novel never went into that overdrive -- which is, generally, full of everything fiction can provide from excitement to hilarity, foolishness to profound insight. [Chances Are . . .] never quite took off for me, perhaps because the energy is split between three protagonists, old college friends, now in their mid-sixties, who've gotten together for a weekend on the Vineyard. All three had been in love with a woman, Jacy, who disappeared at the end of the Memorial Day weekend after college graduation never to be seen again and all three cannot stop wondering and thinking about that once they have gathered. As I write, I'm thinking, well, yeah, Russo handles the way each of these three very different men who have made very different life choices, strongly, all three are distinct and interesting, but overall they didn't grab me nor did the overall story which felt kind of tired. Curiously, the character who absorbed my attention most fully was the retired police chief, Joe Coffin. One of the three friends consults him and sets off a cascade -- although it never quite explodes -- so he is never more than a side-character, but I found him so real and was moved by his weird mix of wisdom and foolishness. That, for me, was where the core life of this novel exists. Like any Russo oeuvre the novel is totally worth reading for those gem-like moments of capturing a mood or a thought. ***1/2 ( )
  sibylline | Feb 27, 2020 |
3 guys meet after 4 decades and talk about their college life together involving the same girl. ( )
  pgabj | Feb 24, 2020 |
Chances Are, Richard Russo, author; Fred Sanders, narrator
Forty plus years after their graduation, during a time fraught with the trauma of the Vietnam War, three Minerva College fraternity brothers who have remained friends, gather back in Martha’s Vineyard for a reunion. The current time is fraught with the Donald Trump election and the current financial and social issues confronting the country. One friend is not present for this reunion. Jacy Calloway, a Theta sorority girl who hung out with them. She disappeared 44 years ago and was loved by each of the three men. They always wondered which of them might win her heart, but she was engaged to another man, at the time, "Vance, Chance Lance?", who was studying to be a lawyer and who was portrayed as a nerdy character who preferred his class distinctions. He came from Greenwich, CT, also, and Jacy’s parents and his parents were close friends. The two were an item for years.
Now, on the island, each of the men reminisces about their relationship with her and about their memories and lives since graduation. They all had secrets which are slowly revealed as the novel progresses. Each had some kind of parental issue, and except for Jacy, who comes from tony Greenwich, CT., each was a scholarship student. The views of their parents shaped them, and they and their parents were obvious products of their times, representing all aspects on the spectrum of societal issues.
Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker is on the island to try and sell his house because of the recent recession. He and his wife helped their children through the crisis and are now in need of protecting themselves in case another financial crisis occurs. Mickey Girardi is still playing in his rock band and is quick to react in anger. He seems stuck in his teenage mindset. Teddy Novak has a small publishing company for religious and spiritual titles. He had once thought of going to divinity school. He has a host of medical issues. Jacy (Justine) Calloway has disappeared. No one seems to know what happened to her and the police investigation when she went missing was sketchy, 44 years ago. Lincoln unwittingly reopens the investigation because of his own curiosity when he meets a retired cop through the local librarian.
There are several stories within stories. Lincoln seems to be the most stable. He married Anita after college, and they have six children. Teddy is the most medically compromised; he is unmarried and was at one time thought to be gay. Mickey is a throwback to another time. He is tough and outgoing, and he has had several marriages. He is unmarried now. He was a draft dodger who ran away to Canada. Jacy has a history of family abuse and was confused about her real identity. She has an unknown biological father, and a sometimes cold-hearted adoptive mother. She is furious with her parents for keeping her heritage from her. Her father represents the evil of the financial industry, the industry that has just suffered a terrible crash and is the reason for Lincoln’s need to sell his family home.
While the narrator did a fine job, it was sometimes hard to figure out which character he was describing. The chapters alternated between Lincoln and Teddy with Jacy and Mickey being developed at the end.
Social issues were hinted at, with Trump supporters being portrayed negatively. Although some of the fraternity brothers were Republican, they were not on the extreme right. The right was portrayed as loud, opinionated, and lower end, with a tendency to quick anger and behavior that was not always appropriate.
The book also touches on present day racial issues with the relationship of Teddy and Theresa, a woman of color whom he rejects, but not for those reasons. Teddy does not like confrontation. His emotional health is fragile and he has spells.
Subtly, the author pretty much trashes the values of the right and lauds those of the left. The one wealthy Wall Streeter falls from grace, and it is implied that he goes to prison. He is also suspected of abusing his daughter. Jacy is inexplicably really furious with her mother for not revealing that she was adopted, and she spends the rest of her life harboring that grievance.
The book does describe the mindset of the country as the Vietnam war robbed it of its human capital. It explains how nationalism drove some men to support it on principle and others to dodge the draft. The men have moved on from the heyday of their youth and often describe themselves as if their end is near, although they are only in their mid sixties. Since it is retirement age, they are aware of their new found shortcomings brought on by advancing age. They are not as fit or as healthy, but otherwise, seem unchanged in their views. The book also explores loneliness, modesty and some behavioral issues facing women, especially during the time of these early college years before women achieved more independence.
The book examines the relationships of friends, their emotional entanglements, their choices and their secrets. It examines aging and maturing with evolving points of view. It examines varied parent/child interactions and their effects on each other. It also examines the place of luck and unexpected accidents in our lives.
There are several surprises in the book and it keeps you guessing, but it is often tedious and overwritten. I enjoyed it because it is was an original story not immersed in filthy language, the PC culture, sex or current day social issues at its forefront. The story seemed to be the purpose, not the author's political views which are so often the reason for many of the books written today in our current political atmosphere that is fraught with contention. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jan 19, 2020 |
Three college friends convene on Martha’s Vineyard in September. Lincoln, who owns the house in Chilmark, is there to see if what work has to be done to put the house on the market. Teddy is at loose ends in his work and his life. And Mickey is still living the life of a rock and roll musician, playing in local bars in his native Massachusetts. Hovering over them all is the ghost of Jacy, the girl they all loved, who disappeared from the island during Memorial Day weekend after they graduated. What happened to Jacy, and what will come next for each of these men, is the story Russo is giving us. A satisfying read. ( )
  rglossne | Jan 6, 2020 |
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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
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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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