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.

A Hard-To-Classify Novel: A Review

The Keeper of Lost Things, a 2017 debut novel by Ruth Hogan, is extremely hard to classify.  It is a love story, a mystery, a ghost story, a good “recipe” for a “good read.”

Take a large portion of characterization equal parts of Anthony Perkins, once a celebrated author of short stories; Laura, his recently betrayed assistant, who is struggling both financially and emotionally; and Frank, handsome but scarred (literally) gardener…

Pour mixture into a large old house with a locked study filled with…what? and add a dash of a teenage Downs  Syndrome girl named Sunshine, a pinch of a grumpy ghost, a dollop of short vignettes inspired by sometimes sad circumstances.

Mix with a wooden spoon until the plot thickens (pun intended), and ladle into a baking pan. Bake in the heat of a sexual attraction until humor is emitted from the touch of a finger, and the reader has a story about “second chances, endless possibilities, and joyful discoveries.

Promise from the recipe writer:  The results will be most enjoyable!