CHANCES ARE by Richard Russo: A Review

RussoThis 2019 addition to the wonderful collection of Richard Russo’s books could be categorized as a mystery or love story, but neither category would be “traditional.” The mystery is a cold case that three characters who were/are in love with the same woman are trying to solve. Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker from Las Vegas, meets up with Mickey, a has-been musician and a sound engineer from Cape Cod, and Teddy, a small-press publisher from Syracuse. The three men are 66 years old when the story opens, and each reflects back on their days as “hashers” (kitchen help provided by scholarship students) in a girl’s sorority house at tiny Minerva College. At the time, they had been best friends, but they had not been in contact with each other since graduation weekend.

Flashing back, It is the time of the Vietnam War, and the pivotal experience the three shared was on December 1, 1969, when they watched on an old black and white TV in the sorority house’s kitchen as birthdates were drawn, and they learned what their fates would be.

A fourth character, Jacey, who was engaged to a “straight-arrow fiancee” but was best friends with the men, is the woman who completed the “All for one, and one for all” group.  None of the men have heard from her or even of her since graduation weekend. Is she still alive? Did she come to a bad end? Was she murdered? Did one of the three do it?

The book is described on the cover as “an elegy for a generation.” I agree with the reviewer who lauds “Russo’s trademark comedy and humanity” because these four were characters I came to care about and would love to follow into a sequel.

TUESDAY TEASER

Tuesday  is not officially over here for another two hours and eight minutes, so here is my Tuesday Teaser for December 3, 2019:

“April 21, 1911   Terrell Mott rode to the Alamo in a Buick touring car, creeping along behind a procession of horse-drawn victorias, and tallyhos. Like the carriages, the gasoline car had been covered with flowers, barely leaving space on the door panels for a sign signifying the white-whiskered relic who rode inside…”

Thus opens Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo, “an imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo in 1836, an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history.”

If you would like to share, copy a few lines of a book you’re currently reading in the Reply/Comments box below. Be sure to mention title and author but no spoilers, please. This opportunity was started by The Purple Booker and has the participation of several of my blogging friends.

 

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS ON SUNDAY MORNING

Yesterday got away from me. Here I have been reading over one hundred middle grade (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th) books for a new project, and I didn’t post a single recommendation of a middle grades book to read. My bad. Here, a day late are some EXCELLENT reads for kids in 5th grade and junior high. They are all 2019 publications.

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya–This story about Emilia Rosa (NOT Emi Rose as her nemesis, Clarissa, insists on)  has “Inattentive ADH,” a condition which limits her ability to focus. She has special considerations in school, but still struggles at times. Especially challenging is Mr. Richt’s social studies project, a tour guide for her home town. Instead of touting the glories of Merryville, Emilia focuses on how the town is divided along class lines, where people from the “wrong side of the track” are treated differently. The resources list (help for veterans, civil rights laws and issues, etc.) provided at the end is very helpful.

Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos introduces Nova, a 13 year old Asburger’s , middle school student who is obsessessed with the stars. When she learns that the junior high she will attend has a planetarium, she is ecstatic. She is anxiously awaiting the event of the Challenger Flight, which of course, ends in tragedy and reveals to Nova a personal tragedy if her own. Interestingly enough the author is on the spectrum, and thus offers an insider’s look into the autistic mind.

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin describes how someone “becomes legend.” Caitlyn, the “new girl” at a small, private school in Vermont , must deal with not only being new to a class that has been together since kindergarten, but with the mystery of who in the world was the glorious, missing student, Paulie Fink. I will review this book at a later date on PWR.

All of these books were a delight to me, and adult, because they included inclusion, bullying, ethnic differences, “keeping up appearances” and so much more than “just” a good plot. Characterization on these three and the development of it due to overcoming obstacles made these three books the deliverers of life lessons middle schoolers will not soon forget. All three receive 5 out of 5 stars.

 

Friday Firstliners

First Line Fridays asks the reader to “tempt’ another reader to add the book they are currently reading to their TBR Lists/folders/ shelves. I have found several of my favorite reads in just this way. All you have to do is read the author’s “hook,” the first sentence or couple of sentences.

My Firstlines today are from Goodbye Mr. Spalding, a fabulous middle school novel by Jennifer Robin Barr and concerns all things baseball history/baseball.

“Jimmie Foxx is definitely dead. I can tell by the way his glassy eyes are staring at me through the fishbowl.”

Jimmie Fox, the fish, is named for Jimmy Frank’s favorite ball player. Jimmy’s life revolves around baseball. I have read half to three-fourths of the book, and at the moment the human Jimmie Foxx is hospitalized for an injury from the game. I am hoping the first line is not a foreshadowing of the man’s demise! LOL

FRIDAY FIRST LINERS

“First Line Fridays is hosted by Hoarding Books. The blogger asks that one put the first

IMG_0648.JPG or a couple of lines of a book you are reading down, and I am asking for you to comment on whether you would read this book, judging from just that first line or so.

My First Line Friday is from Wendy S. Swore’s middle school book, A Monster Like Me:

“You’d think monsters would have their own grocery store, but they don’t. They walk around with a cart the same as regular people and keep the monster part hidden inside where no one can see it.”

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS CHALLENGE CONTINUED

Recently I read and reviewed The Haunted Bookstore by Christopher Morely, a classic from WWII days. It led me to the audiobook of Morely’s previous book, Parnassus on Wheels. Parnassius tells the story of Roger Mifflin, bookstore owner extraordinaire, before his bookstore days and how he met and courted Mrs. Mifflin. Like a tinker of those days, Mifflin traveled from town to town, selling used books instead of pots and pans, his gaudy cart pulled by a decrepit old nag, Pegasus. [His] “delight in books and authors is infectious.”

When he visits a local author and “gentleman farmer,” he finds the author off gathering material for his latest book and the author’s sister capably running the farm in his absence. Parnassus is the story of HER adventure.  She is a delightful recently-turned “feminist”–from the perspective of the early 1900s. She buys Parnassus on Wheels and travels (unescorted) with Mifflin as her passenger and guide, and the rest is a hilarious narrative that brings together the two perfectly matched individuals whom we meet as a couple in The Haunted Bookstore.

I seldom use the word “quaint” when I describe a book, but this lovely pair, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookstore are just that–and a darned fine read!