“Chances Are” is a mystery, a love story and a buddy story all wrapped together. It is engaging, captivating, well written and 100% pure Richard Russo.
Lincoln Moser, Teddy Novak and Mickey Girardi are 66 year old college buddies who get together for a reunion at Lincoln’s vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. Each come from very different backgrounds and met as college students at Minerva College in Connecticut, where they were scholarship students. They worked in the kitchen at the Theta House as “hashers”, where Lincoln met Anita, who became his wife and all three were close friends with and secretly in love with Jacy Rockafellow.
The novel tells the story of Lincoln, Teddy, Mickey and Jacy, and the details of their lives that the others do not know. The reunion in Martha’s Vineyard is difficult, because it was this exact house, forty plus years earlier, where they last saw Jacy. After college graduation, the four decided to have a last get together at the home previously owned by Lincoln’s mother. Jacy snuck out early on the last day and was never heard from or seen again.
Lincoln is a commercial real estate broker who struggled through the recession. Lincoln’s father and mother also struggled financially while he was growing up. However, it turned out that his mother had inherited the house on Martha’s Vineyard from her parents and left it to Lincoln at her death, not to his know-it-all father, Wolfgang Amadeus Moser, who is still alive at the time of the reunion.
Teddy is the only child of parents who are both teachers and who had very little time for their intelligent lonely son. In high school, Teddy grew strong and played basketball, where he was undercut by a teammate while going for a basket and broke vertebrae. The combination of the parental neglect and the broken vertebrae have impacted Teddy throughout his life. Teddy appears to be bi-polar, with spells both extremely up and extremely down. Teddy is also a teacher and runs a small publishing business.
Mickey comes from a working class family full of love and positive impact. He is a musician and sound engineer living in Cape Cod. He, Teddy and Lincoln sat together during the nation’s first draft lottery. Mickey’s number was 9 out of 366 and it was clear he was going to Vietnam. Jacy hugged him close in sorrow and the others were jealous, despite Mickey’s difficult situation. Married and divorced more than once, and still playing rock and roll, he appears to be the least changed of the three, including his volatile temper.
Jacy, a member of the Theta house, was the daughter of wealthy parents (Vivian and Donald) and appeared to lead a privileged life. But all was not as it seemed. Jacy was engaged to be married to Vance, a Dartmouth graduate headed to Duke Law School and seemingly the perfect match. Yet she never visited him, never spoke of him. She seemed to spend all of her time with Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey.
As they all gather in Martha’s Vineyard, thoughts of Jacy take control of the week-end. Lincoln starts doing some community research, Teddy gets lost in his memories and Mickey has some surprises for them all. Along the way, they focus on a year round resident by the name of Mason Troyer. Mason has expressed interest in buying Lincoln’s house and they all begin to believe that he had some involvement in Jacy’s disappearance over Memorial Day week-end in 1971. Is she somehow buried in the back yard?
During the reunion week-end, they each learn something about the other that they did not know. Teddy observes that “…there’s a lot we don’t know about people, even the ones we love best.,,,But the things we keep secret tend to be at the center of who we are.” This novel, enjoyable, readable, and thought provoking, proves the point. The book was released in August and I certainly do recommend it. It can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.