Likely Stories: Chances Are… by Richard Russo

Oct 3, 2019

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Richard Russo is a talented and widely admired writer.  His latest novel Chances Are… is the story of “Three old friends [who] arrived on Cape Cod in reverse order, from farthest to nearest: Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker, traveled practically cross-country from Las Vegas, Teddy. A small press publisher, from Syracuse; Mickey, a musician and sound engineer.  All were sixty-six years old and had attended the same small liberal arts college in Connecticut where they’d slung hash at a campus sorority” (3).  The group is rounded out with “Jacy,” (6).  I am about the same age, and I attended a small liberal arts college in Philadelphia, I could not help missing a healthy measure of intrigue.


Russo writes, “Lincoln hailed from Arizona, where his father was a minority owner of a small, mostly played-out copper mine.  His mother was from Wellesley, the only child of a once well-to-do family, though unbeknownst to her, not much of that wealth remained when her parents were killed in a car accident while she was a senior at Minerva College” (6).  Much later, Lincoln discovers his family owned a valuable house in Chilmark.  Lots of events occur in that house.  Russo adds, “The Chilmark house sat perched on a hummocky, picturesque two-acre plot of land that sloped down toward State Road and beyond the Atlantic, perfectly blue [sky].  As he stood on the back deck, from which all this was visible, Lincoln’s first thought was, Nope.  Only an idiot would ever sell this” (8).

In addition to the three men, an attractive, smart woman shoehorned herself into the trio, and all three men fell in love with her.  Each of these characters had a wide variety of ideas, love, and hatred, but they all had a deep and closely knitted relationship.  Russo writes, “From an early age Teddy sensed how different he was from other kids and accepted his lonely lot in life without complaint. […]

Because he so often ended up getting hurt when he tried to act like one of them, he mostly stayed safely at home and read books, […] ‘He loves to read,’ they always remarked to other parents who marveled at Teddy’s straight A’s” (15-16).

Russo continues, “Micky […] was from a rough, working-class neighborhood in West Haven, Connecticut, famous for body builders, Harleys and ethnic block parties. […] For Mickey, music came first.  His first job was sweeping up the mall music store where he’d seen a Fender Stratocaster in the window and fallen in love.  After a guitar came an amp.  In a band at age thirteen.  By sixteen, sneaking into raunchy New Haven bars […] ‘I catch you doing drugs with those guys,’ his father warned, you’re gonna be the first kid in America ever beaten to death with a Fenson guitar.’  ‘Fender’ Micky corrected him”  (18-19).

In addition to all this, Russo notes, “On December 1, 1969, the evening of the nation’s first draft lottery, Lincoln convinced the house mother to let the hashers serve dinner half an hour early so they could all crawl around a tiny black-and-white TV (5).  I was in that lottery with an extremely low number.

This interesting, detailed story of the lives of the three men and a woman and a house all add up to another great read by Richard Russo.  Chances are… this is a novel you will want to read and join the army of Russo admirers.  5 Stars