Chances Are – by Richard Russo – book review

As a big fan of his previous novel EMPIRE FALLS, I looked forward to picking up this new one by Richard Russo. But unfortunately, even Pulitzer Prize winning authors can turn out something more average. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

It’s 2015 and three men in their mid-sixties, friends since college, are meeting up on Martha’s Vineyard for a reunion weekend. Mickey, a struggling musician, and Teddy, a small-time publisher who is fighting mental illness, join Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, at the rundown island home that’s been in Lincoln’s family for generations. Only now he may have to sell it to shore up his personal finances. 

But it turns out to be NOT your typical reunion. Because all three are haunted by the absence of the fourth member of their college group, Jacy, a complex woman all of them were in love with. Jacy disappeared in 1971 while the four of them were on Martha’s Vineyard in this very same house. Was she running away from her fiancé? Did she meet with foul play? Why have none of them heard from her in 40 years?

I won’t tell more about the plot. But the novel turns out to be more about the nature of friendship — how much truth friends actually reveal about themselves to each other, and what can happen when important information is hidden for decades.  It also explores, in the absence of that knowledge,  how suggestible people can be to swallowing theories and speculations — even from total strangers. And we, the readers, are also kept in the dark until close to the end of the story. So, you might say it’s an object lesson in why it’s better to be honest with your close friends.

Author Richard Russo

Russo manages to again create distinctive and completely believable characters, who are fully three-dimensional. (He’s very good at this!) My chief complaint with the book is how manufactured the end felt. I guess I felt a bit manipulated because SO MUCH had been hidden that it began to feel TOO contrived. 

However, I can totally imagine that others would not react the same as I did. So I’d still recommend you give this one a try. If nothing else, it’s a good mystery.

More about the author.