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 FriendshipOne 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 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. I can t remember encountering a Richard Russo character who doesn t seem real, as someone I could know or as someone with flaws who reminds me that all of us are flawed or that all of us are vulnerable in one way or another Having read all of his novels and most of his shorter fiction, I have come to expect this connection that he allows us to make with his characters He did not disappoint in his latest novel Three sixty six year old men, college friends from the 60 s meet 44 years later on Martha s Vineyard They ve taken different paths in life Lincoln is in real estate, married with children and grandchildren Teddy has never married, has been an adjunct professor and publisher of a small press that is closing up Mickey is the forever rocker whose past remains elusive until the end of the story Missing from this reunion is another college friend, Lacy who has not been seen or heard from since they last spent time together at Lincoln s family house on Martha s Vineyard in 1971 While Lacy is missing, she is ever present in the story, the girl they all fell in love with back then in college, the woman they still love and is ever present in their thoughts The chapters of the present and flashbacks to their pasts alternate between Lincoln and Teddy giving us their family backgrounds which in some ways have shaped who they are as adults, how they have lived their lives We don t hear from Mickey until the end, but through these narratives we know his background as well Their lives were also shaped by these friendships that started in college and by the hold that Lacy had on them then and now In many ways, this is introspective with these characters considering who they were when the draft numbers were called for Vietnam, who they are now, the choices they made, the things they did, the things they didn t do, the secrets they kept It wasn t in fact possible to strip life of its clutter for the simple reason that life was clutter This is one of my favorite lines in the book In many ways the story, for me reflects choices made as the characters deal with the clutter that life is If you are a Russo fan already, the chances that you ll love this story are pretty good If Russo is new to you, I d say the chances are awfully good there too Sorry I couldn t help myself because I can t get Johnny Mathis s song out of my head I m going to be singing there for a while An aside I ve been reviewing ARCs for 5 years and Knopf pretty much never approves my requests for ARCs I don t give up requesting from them, especially if it s a book by a favorite author like Russo One of my very good Goodreads friends who knows how much I love Richard Russo s writing lent me a copy of an Arc that she received from a mutual Book Angel friend Many thanks to both of you And then shock of shocks , I was approved by Knopf on Edelweiss for a review copy Thanks to them also. Friends from college and now sixty six years old, three men reunite at a house on Martha s Vineyard owned by one of them During their Vietnam era college years, all of them were in love with the same privileged, rebellious girl who rounded out their friendly foursome What is the possibility or chance that she was in love with one of them From the vantage point of age each man considers his life as it exists today and as it was as a college student One plays it safe, one plays it fast and loose, and one barely plays at all What happened to their chances of a rosy future In some instances the impact of the father looms large The truth and that which is untrue are major themes Typically, one lies to prevent consequences but tells a falsehood when one believes something to be true but doesn t possess all of the facts Is withholding information a lie by omission Is there a difference between facts and reality In the past, an unresolved event occurred that causes these questions to emerge Rich characters, a spectacular sense of place and masterful storytelling define this brilliant novel This was my first experience with Russo but certainly not my last. Over forty years have passed since these three men met during the sixties in college, and now that they ve reached their sixties, they ve gathered together on Martha s Vineyard for the weekend As we hear their stories, and know what secrets they are holding, keeping them to themselves, there is another story that slowly starts to be unveiled, as well.Revisiting the early years of the war in Vietnam, they reflect back on the night of the first draft lottery, sitting around a tiny black and white television screen, with Mickey s birthday coming up first, at which point the others begin singing Oh, Canada The next birthday among them to come up was Lincoln s, and then much later, Teddy s As they slowly drift out of the house, lost in their own personal reflections on luck, good and bad, they notice Jacy, the spirited, carefree girl from a privileged family that they all loved They were all in love with her during those years, waiting for them, and she s standing, waiting for them, for their news When they see her wrap her arms around Mickey when she hears his news, all of his buddies still in disbelief over his bad luck with the lottery, now only feel envy in this moment Standing in their old haunts, thoughts drift back, memories of those years when they were in college and wonder what has become of Jacy, the girl who stole all their hearts, and in truth, a part still belongs to her No longer the young men they were then, they have changed physically along with their years, but are also no longer the carefree, optimistic youths they were then They are responsible men, with responsible jobs, for the most part Lincoln is a commercial real estate broker, Teddy is a small press publisher, only Mickey lives close by, still living his life as a musician after his return from Canada Despite the years, they don t feel all that different from all those years ago, especially when they re here, together, like this But step away from each other, and perspective gives them a new view Health concerns factor in, limitations they didn t have so many years ago But, still, they question where is Jacy, and why isn t she there, with them As they begin to try to find the answer to this, they encounter a seemingly endless series of dead ends That doesn t seem to stop the search, or conjecturing on possibilities, but they can t stop picturing her in these places they wandered through together in their past Russo excels at creating a strong sense of this place and time, and these ordinary, everyday characters He seems to conjure them fully formed, all of their quirks and eccentricities on display, so that you can picture them doing some of the things they do, and you feel as if you know them, as though you ve never not known them Pub Date 30 Jul 2019Many thanks to the ARC provided by my BookAngel 4 1 2 rounded down to a 4.Oh my goodness this book takes me back My husband, who was then my boyfriend, and I also sat in front of a TV in 1969 when the draft lottery was televised He had a college deferment and fortunately his number was high, but the anxiety of that particular time was off the charts high Imagine your future decided by the random calling out of a number, whether you were able to continue on the path you were leading or got sent to Vietnam None of my friends believed in this war, barely understanding it, and yet many were sent there, died, were held prisoner or returned with bodies and minds mangled by this tragedy.In this novel three college friends sat and waited for their numbers to be called, watching on a small TV at the back of the kitchen of the sorority house where they worked Mickey had the lowest number and was most certainly going to be called, then Lincoln and Teddy This day affected them all in different ways The fourth member of their close group of friends was Jacy, the girl that everyone falls in love with beautiful, caring, charismatic, devil may care, they all loved her She was waiting with arms open to Mickey when they left the building, she had been waiting to hear the numbers they all received Fast forward over forty years and the three friends have decided to reunite on Martha s Vineyard, at the house that Lincoln s wife owns, the last place they were all together They are all still wondering what happened to Jacy, how they never got to say goodbye and never heard from her She left behind a fiance whom she didn t seem to love and parents that were grieving for their lost daughter.As they visit the old places that held so many memories they find out the truth of how they have lived their lives There are medical issues, financial issues, marital problems, and yet when they are together they still feel the ties that bind.Eventually we do find out what happened that last day on the Vineyard and it is a believable though haunting ending.Russo has crafted yet again a strongly character driven novel, this time with a mystery tied to it I felt comfortable back in the hands of a gifted storyteller and thoroughly enjoyed the ride I don t feel it is quite as strong a book as Nobody s Fool or Empire Falls but it s still one great story and I highly recommend it I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.This book is set to publish on July 30, 2019 Anytime Richard Russo comes out with a new book, it s a cause for celebration I can t think of another writer today who has so adroitly captured our deteriorating east coast small town communities and the has beens, ne er do wells, and wannabes who inhabit them Works such as The Risk Pool, Nobody s Fool and Empire Falls, for example, position him as the preeminent chronicler of the down on their luck manufacturing towns of America.Chances Are is a quintessentially Russo sort of book It s not quite as good as the three I mention above, but it is quite good nonetheless The novel centers around three college chums who have taken different paths and now meet in Martha s Vineyard in the midst of their 66th year, and one ghost They all were in love with an elusive and carefree woman named Jacy, who spent a summer with them than four decades ago and then disappeared, never to be heard from again.The book asks what ever happened to her Did she meet with foul play or is she hiding just out of sight But it would not be fair to call this a mystery rather, the novel s theme is how the things we keep secret tend to be right at the center of who we are Or, put another way, do we ever really know a person we believe we re close to It s also a book about chances the immutable fate that may be fixed right from the start, the opportunities we did not take, the way we look at life from the wrong end of the telescope as we age When do we give up on taking a chance Do we ever give up The Jacy scenes come across as a bit cinematic and plotted, which is why I m withholding the fifth star While reading the book, I couldn t help but see in my mind how it would play out in a movie But don t let that stop you Richard Russo is darn GOOD and his fleshing out of the world of his character is, as always, expertly done. While I was reading this book I was reminded of how much I like Richard Russo He is such a wise and empathetic writer He writes mostly about men but he also does that with an understanding that men are often foolish I enjoyed my time reading this book even though it is a kind of plot I really do not enjoy because it was still nice to get some time with Russo This is right up the middle for Russo, not one of his lighter comedies or one of his heavy downers, it s a kind of a mystery built around character Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey are all scholarship students at a small liberal arts college who end up working the same kitchen job They get to know each other, become friends, but their bond is cemented the night they watch the Vietnam draft lottery together Decades later, now almost old men, they are spending a weekend together on Martha s Vineyard While there, they are haunted by memories of their last trip to the island, spent with Jacy who no one ever saw again after that weekend.The reason I held my nose somewhat at this book is that this is your garden variety Lost Manic Pixie Dream Girl plot Jacy is just that kind of girl that every guy falls in love with She is bewitching She is charismatic She is unattainable This is a hard thing to get across, even for a writer of Russo s talents He is not the first Very Talented Writer to write this exact character and fail in this exact way At first no one is surprised Jacy has run off and abandoned her terrible fiance right before the wedding But so many years later, the guys can t help but wonder if something awful happened I still feel pretty comfortable recommending this book, even if you are not a fan of this type of plot There was something so relaxing about being in Russo s hands, letting him dive into these characters The ending is over too fast and seems awfully pat, though the characters themselves also note this and isn t quite as satisfying as it should be, but I still found it worthwhile. I m on record that Richard Russo is one of my very favorite authors, so I was thrilled to get my hands on Chances Are his latest novel Predictably, I fell in love with his characters, enjoyed his inimitable wit, and didn t want the ride to end and I cast the movie in my mind Three men, all 66 years old Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey former college buddies get together on Martha s Vineyard in 2015, 44 years after they spent a pivotal, and possibly fatal, weekend there in 1971 Russo deftly unspools the stories of the three men, as he ratchets up the suspense regarding the disappearance of their friend and crush Jacy Russo isn t known for mysteries and twists , but he can sure spin them, and the last 100 pages are un put down able What he IS known for is revealing the inner life of men, and for producing pitch perfect dialogue between men, and between men and the women they love These three men, in particular, were affected by the Vietnam War and there is a scene where they all await their draft numbers to be called in 1969 Russo knows that the Vietnam War had a profound effect on the country, but particularly on the young men of the era, which persists to this day Chances Are is about the chances that we take or don t take in life, and about the consequences of those choices.Teddy, an editor, muses that the theme of Sin and Redemption is not currently in style or PC, but it can be said that Russo s entire oeuvre is about sin and redemption as it is played out with compassion among all his male characters across his many novels It s his strength and our gift. So conflicted about this book I loved Richard Russo s work through Empire Falls or so, and then it just seemed like he was hitting the same beats over and over And this book is definitely standard issue Russo with his extremely specific checklist working class middle aged guy with daddy issues check deceased mother who was a goddamned saint check who also had a seaside getaway that was the only place that brought her joy check Martha s Vineyard this time a smart but exasperated wife who s thisclose to being a harridan but still good natured enough to put up with the protagonist s shit so he knows he s lucky to have her and should probably tell her often a supporting cast of crusty comic diner owners, cops, reprobates, professors, adult kids, and other locals always engaging in gritty witty conversations in bars, police stations, bleachers, and backyards He mixes it up for this book by making it a mystery told through the perspectives of three middle aged men with daddy issues Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey guys who met at a small liberal arts college in the late 60s, where they were all in love with Jacy, a Greenwich sorority girl who disappeared after spending the weekend with them at Martha s Vineyard in 1971, just after graduation, right before her wedding, and just as Mickey was about to ship off to Vietnam We get lots of backstory about the guys, of course But what do we know of Jacy that inspires such devotion Well, she was braless And wild and free, of course But mostly braless that s the main adjective that describes her until we find out ca page 240 that she had dark curly hair And her manic pixie dream ghost has been titting boobily through the psyches of these three dolts such that they have been unable to get their shit together for the ensuing 44 years Honestly This made me furious.And yet I couldn t stop reading Russo knows how to tell a story He writes incredible dialogue He digs into some larger questions about friendship and aging and class in interesting ways I just wish he knew anything at all about people who are not old white guys with daddy issues. Hop on a Russo book if you want characters with character The men and women are woeful, rueful, and belly fulla angsty wit Moreover, they brim with shadows, blind spots, ghosts, darkness and light CHANCES ARE doesn t disappoint with his cast of characters, who could walk off the pages and into your lives There s stifled passion and mournful regret all tucked inside their bones It s a book about the chances you take, the choices you make, and the secrets that eat at your heart and the atonement you thirst for in your soul As you turn the pages, the pressure mounts toward the final disclosures between Lincoln, Mickey, and Teddy the three Musketeers one for all and all for one Russo keeps his characters around long after you close the book In the sixties, three scholarship students meet at a liberal arts college on Martha s Vineyard They become lifelong friends with long stretches in between After almost a decade of distance, they decide to spend Labor Day weekend 2015 at Lincoln s summerhouse on the Vineyard, provoking misty memories and murky wounds It s 44 years after graduation, and they are 66 years old They recall their friendship with each other and with their fourth Musketeer, Jacy, the well heeled sorority woman they were all a little or a lot in love with, even Lincoln, despite embarking on a new relationship with his future wife They remember the night in December of 69 when they watched the draft lottery on TV, waiting to see what their numbers were I remember that myself, in the fevered tension of my living room, with two brothers to worry about The stricken mood as one of them got 9, Vietnam deferred till finishing college And then came Memorial Day weekend after graduation, their last together with Jacy, who disappeared mysteriously and forever from them, her family, and her fianc , never to be heard from again It still casts a shadow over their lives, and is hovering over this 2015 weekend Jacy is the avid ghost, a permanent presence and absence that wreaks havoc on their reunion weekend.Despite the superb characterizations, Russo flailed with his plot The last third of the novel was overcrowded with excessive storylines and info dumps, meandering and rambling and tacking on material that didn t connect well to the earlier narrative flow This was a quick read I finished in less than two days, but the superfluous drama was unnecessary and disappointing, and unfurled like declarative broadcasts I was engaged and then I couldn t wait for it to end But Chances Are Russo fans will want to decide for themselves.Thank you to Random House for an early copy. Chances Are, by Richard Russo, is one of those great summer reads for Boomers set on an island, with reminiscences galore, back to the late 60s early 70s, with references to Vietnam, college adventures and relationships, and then the counterpoint of the kind of wistfulness that people in their mid sixties get when they look back at their younger, less cynical selves.Back in their college days, there were the Four Musketeers three very different guys and Jacy, the girl they all loved in their own ways They spend a last Memorial Day weekend on Martha s Vineyard prior to scattering to their various new lives right after college graduation and then Jacy disappears The story is set as the three guys gather for a kind of reunion, back on the island, and their various lives are contrasted as they look back and examine their current situations The characters of the three guys are EXTREMELY well drawn, and the mystery surrounding Jacy s disappearance is intriguing as the story unfolds I didn t guess the resolution, but that s no big deal, because I pretty much NEVER see it coming whatever it happens to be Loved the setting, loved the characterizations, loved the story Five stars.
- 320 pages
- Chances Are...
- Richard Russo
- 05 February 2018 Richard Russo