Chances Are...

Chances Are...

by Richard Russo

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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls comes a new revelation: a riveting story about the abiding yet complex power of friendship.

One beautiful September day, three men convene on Martha's Vineyard, friends ever since meeting in college circa the sixties. They couldn't have been more different then, or even today--Lincoln's a commercial real estate broker, Teddy a tiny-press publisher, and Mickey a musician beyond his rockin' age. But each man holds his own secrets, in addition to the monumental mystery that none of them has ever stopped puzzling over since a Memorial Day weekend right here on the Vineyard in 1971: the disappearance of the woman each of them loved--Jacy Calloway. Now, more than forty years later, as this new weekend unfolds, three lives are displayed in their entirety while the distant past confounds the present like a relentless squall of surprise and discovery. Shot through with Russo's trademark comedy and humanity, Chances Are . . . also introduces a new level of suspense and menace that will quicken the reader's heartbeat throughout this absorbing saga of how friendship's bonds are every bit as constricting and rewarding as those of family or any other community.
     For both longtime fans and lucky newcomers, Chances Are . . . is a stunning demonstration of a highly acclaimed author deepening and expanding his remarkable achievement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101947753
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/30/2019
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 886
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Richard Russo is the author of eight novels, most recently Everybody’s Fool and That Old Cape Magic; two collections of stories; and the memoir Elsewhere. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries; in 2016 he was given the Indie Champion Award by the American Booksellers Association; and in 2017 he received France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine. He lives in Port­land, Maine.


Gloversville, New York

Date of Birth:

July 15, 1949

Place of Birth:

Johnstown, New York


B.A., University of Arizona, 1967; Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1979; M.F.A., University of Arizona, 1980

Read an Excerpt


September was the best month on the island. The crowds were gone, the beaches empty, the ocean still warm. No need for restaurant reservations. After Labor Day, the politicians had all returned to D.C., the left-wing Hollywood/media types to L.A. and New York. Also gone were the smug, privileged frat boys, many of whom imagined themselves Democrats but who in the fullness of time would become mainstream Republicans. Half of Lincoln’s Las Vegas agency—or what was left of it after the Great Recession—was made up of Sigma Chis who’d been long-haired pot smokers and war protesters in the sixties and seventies. Now they were hard-line conservatives, or anyway harder than Lincoln. These days, a lifelong Republican himself, Lincoln had a difficult time finding comfort anywhere on the political spectrum. Voting for Hillary was out of the question, but if not her, then who? A baker’s dozen of GOP candidates were still in the race—some legitimately stupid, others acting like it—at least through Iowa. So Kasich, maybe. Bland wouldn’t be so bad. Think Eisenhower.

Anyway, a relief to shelve politics for a few days. Lincoln had little doubt that Teddy, who would arrive tomorrow, was still a raging lib, though there was no way of telling whether he’d be in the Clinton or the Sanders camp. Mickey? Did he even vote? Probably not a bad idea to give Vietnam a conversational miss, as well. The war had been over for decades, except not really, not for men of their age. It had been their war, whether or not they’d served. Though his memory was increasingly porous these days, Lincoln still remem­bered that evening back in 1969 when all the hashers had gathered in the back room of the Theta house to watch the draft lottery on a tiny black-and-white TV someone had brought in for the occasion. Had they asked permission to watch on the big TV in the front room? Probably not. The social boundaries of sororities, like so much else in the culture, had started eroding, as evidenced by their regular Friday afternoon hasher parties, but they could still crop up unexpectedly. Hashers still entered the house through the rear. Anyway, the draft wasn’t about the Thetas, it was about Lincoln and Teddy and Mickey and the others. Eight young men whose fortunes that night hung in the balance. A couple were dating Thetas, as Lincoln would the following year with Anita, and planned to see them later in the evening, but they’d watch the lottery on the crappy little set in the back room, not the big color one in the front room, because they belonged there, as did the war itself.

They’d made a party of it, everybody chipping in for a case of beer—strictly against the rules, but Cook wouldn’t squeal, not that night. The rule was that you couldn’t start drinking until your birthday had been drawn and you knew your fate. Mickey’s came first, shockingly early. Number 9. How was it that Lincoln could recall this detail, when time had relegated so much else to memory’s dustbin? He remembered, too, how his friend had risen to his feet, his arms raised like a victorious boxer, as if he’d been hoping for precisely this eventuality. Going over to the aluminum tub, he’d pulled a beer out of the ice, popped the top and chugged half of it. Then, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he’d grinned and said, “You boys must be feeling pretty dry in the mouth right about now.” The other thing Lincoln recalled was glancing over at Teddy and seeing that all the blood had drained out of his face.

Absent from these vivid memories, though, was how he’d com­ported himself. Had he joined the others in serenading Mickey with the Canadian national anthem? Had he laughed at the god-awful jokes (“Been nice knowin’ ya, Mick”)? He had a dim, perhaps false, memory of taking Mickey aside at some point and saying, “Hey, man, it’s a long way off.” Because even those who’d drawn low numbers probably wouldn’t hear from their draft boards for months, and college students were allowed to finish that academic year. Most juniors in good standing—as Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey were—would get one-year deferments to complete their degrees before reporting for duty. Maybe by then the war would be over or, failing that, winding down.

Later that evening Lincoln called home, hoping his mother would answer, though naturally it was his father who picked up. “We watched,” he said, his nasal, high-pitched voice exaggerated by the tinny, long-distance connection. “Like I told your mother, they won’t go beyond one-fifty.” As with all his father’s opinions, this one was expressed as fact.

“Unless you’re wrong and they do,” Lincoln said, emboldened, perhaps, by being three thousand miles away.

“But I’m not and they won’t,” Dub-Yay had assured him, prob­ably to allay Lincoln’s fear, though he sometimes wondered if his father’s pronouncements served some other, more obscure purpose. Ever since his mother let him in on the truth about their family finances, his father’s declarations had begun to tick him off. “How did the other Stooges make out?” Dub-Yay wanted to know. (Lin­coln had told his parents that he and Teddy and Mickey, so unlike the preppy Minerva boys with rich parents, had come to think of themselves as the Three Musketeers, to which his father had imme­diately responded, “Three Stooges would be more like it.”)

Lincoln swallowed hard. “Mickey got nailed. Number nine.”

“It’s a foolish war,” his father conceded. “But you don’t get to hold out for a just one.”

Lincoln supposed he agreed, but it still annoyed him that his father would be so cavalier where his friends were concerned. “What would you say if I went to Canada?” Lincoln ventured.

“Not one blessed thing.” This statement was delivered without hesitation, as if Dub-Yay had been anticipating the question, given it some serious thought and was anxious, as always, to share his conclusions. “The moment you did that, you would no longer be my son, and we wouldn’t be speaking. I didn’t name you after Abraham Lincoln so you could become a draft dodger. How fared Brother Edward?”

That was his nickname for Teddy, who’d visited them in Dun­bar that summer. Lincoln’s mother had liked him immediately, but Dub-Yay hadn’t been impressed. It was W. A. Moser’s deeply held conviction that a single round of golf would reveal everything you needed to know about a man’s character, and he had made up his mind about Teddy on the first tee when he failed to remove his wristwatch. Nothing pleased Wolfgang Amadeus more than to extrapolate the world from a grain of sand. In retrospect, though, Lincoln doubted the wristwatch incident had anything to do with his misgivings about his friend. More likely Teddy had said some­thing provocative about the war or remarked that all the members of the Dunbar Country Club were white and the staff Latino.

“Teddy’s safe,” Lincoln said. “Three hundred–something.”

“Just as well. I can’t imagine what earthly use that boy would be in combat.” Or anything else, he seemed to be saying.

Had Lincoln even spoken to his mother that evening? Here again, memory, like a conscientious objector, refused to serve.

What was etched vividly in Lincoln’s brain, however, was the moment when all three Musketeers emerged from the Theta house and found their beautiful d’Artagnan shivering in the December cold out back. Just as he remembered the shameful thought that had entered his head unbidden—You lucky dog!—when she took a surprised Mickey in her arms and hugged him tight. You had only to glance at Teddy to know he was thinking the same thing.

Jacy. Vanished from this very island. Memorial Day weekend, 1971.

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Chances Are... (Signed Book) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I really liked the book...good characters and storyline. It kept me engaged, wanting to find out what happened to Jacy, their friend who disappeared after college. Good twist at the end...
Anonymous 3 months ago
He never fails to entertain and make me think ! As always I loved the characters not because they were lovable but because they seemed real. These people were of my generation and we're all relatable to the types of people with whom I grew up.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Nice to see serious thought given to the inner lives of men of a certain age. I didn't put the book down until I finished it.
Anonymous 16 days ago
this is such a relatable saga to someone experiencing the same reality of war and how to get through it and still be able to plan a life together our solution wasto enlist in the navy reserves, a 6 year commitment which allowed careers and a family.our sitution was a complete bore compared to the four characters in the book. we lived a life like did our college friends, thus the life of southern roots. this was one of the best books ive recently read and im a costant reader. i did not want it to end perhaps a seqeal is possible...
Anonymous 20 days ago
Chances Are didn't disappoint, Great characters and plot, Was invested in both right from the beginning to end,
Anonymous 3 months ago
Another great read.
Anonymous 5 days ago
Anonymous 11 days ago
Russo's book fits ones memory of the 70s and aged reunions. An interesting and enjoyable read with all the scenes filled with realism. The cover should show a skinny-dipper. The. Characters fit my memory of college and the draft.
Anonymous 12 days ago
I have read every one of his books and this one disappoints. It drags and repeats itself. The three men do not seem real.
Anonymous 14 days ago
Beautifully written
Buffalojim 3 months ago
As an aged group of buddies reuniting I could get into it, but it wasn't up to some of his past works. That doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable read--it is. Not every book an author writes can knock your socks off, but this book will take a tender setting beside Rick's other books on HIS shelf. Wouldn't have missed it for anything.
norway_girl 3 months ago
If you remember the early '70's this will feel like a trip... a good one. As good writers know, and as Mark Twain advised: "Write what you know.", Richard Russo has penned this book so well as for you to imagine he could have been one of the characters and this was a memoir. He is known to sometimes include himself in his work. (I suspect one of the three male characters is a lot like him ) I truly enjoy reading his books. So beautifully crafted. Compelling narratives. Palpable settings. Characters so real as you would think they'd be sitting in your living room. The three male characters take turns telling the story, and do that both in the past and in the present day settings. (Mostly Lincoln and Teddy) But what is such a gift here, is that when you are reading a character's description, it is in their own voice. We get to know them better than they know each other. Jacy, the love interest of all three, doesn't get her own voice, we just hear her through the memories of the boys/men. You understand this from the beginning, because she is absent, missing but vividly remembered and described so you truly get to know her as well. Switching characters and time settings is often used in historical fiction. It isn't confusing, but sometimes you thumb back through the book thinking you missed a clue, a hint a forewarning. I happen to enjoy that in mysteries. And for however many people describe this novel, "mystery" would be at the top of their list, I think. So, now you have a whodunit, an historical novel (albeit recent history), a memoir (possibly),and a love story. Then add the consequences of familial conflict and neglect mixed with the coming of age in the time of "freedom" to enjoy sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And you have the novel known as Chances Are... ! If you like Richard Russo before, don't miss this one. If you haven't tried him yet, give him a chance. Oh and as an aside...The Johnny Mathis song "Chances Are", plays on a loop in your brain if you've ever heard it...and lingers WAY after if you even mildly knew and remembered the lyrics. Good thing I liked it. LOL.
WyHalo 4 months ago
Disclaimer: I will read and usually will love anything by Richard Russo. He writes characters who are so real, you would swear you've known them for years. Chances Are...takes place over Memorial Day weekend in 2015. Three college friends, now men in their mid-sixties, get together at one of their homes in Martha's Vineyard. MIssing from the gathering is the fourth Musketeer, Jacy, who disappeared in 1971 after a they spent a week there after college graduation. She was the unlikely part of their group, a wealthy sorority girl while they're the guys who wash dishes in her house. Lincoln, Mickey, and Teddie have kept in sporadic touch since Jacy went missing, but haven't seen each other in years. Back on the cape. they're reliving the feelings they had about the Vietnam War and the draft and Jacy. Did she run away from her unhappy engagement or did somebody kill her? And did they really know her at all? This was totally engrossing, but not quite my favorite from Russo. There is some stiff competition, though! I received a free ebook ARC from Knopf via Netgalley.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This novel will particularly resonate with the Vietnam generation. It's the story of three men in their mid-60s, college friends, who meet for a sort of reunion at a New England beach house. The fourth main character, who is not present but is a strong presence, is the free-spirited Jacy who they all were entranced by, and who mysteriously disappeared on their last college weekend together in the same place forty some years ago. I really liked this book -- Russo writes so well. Yes, it's a flawed novel: a few eyebrow-raising plot chestnuts and female characters who are not anywhere near as real as their male counterparts. But this is mainly the story of the three men and they are wonderfully drawn and depicted. Their conversations and interior monologues feel genuine and pull you along. And it is a great depiction of their era, the early 70s and the power and confusion and excitement of that time. There is sometimes a small bit of Big Chill vibe here, the wryness of what we all thought would become of us versus the true history. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
SheTreadsSoftly 4 months ago
Chances Are... by Richard Russo is a very highly recommended novel about a reunion on Martha's Vineyard of three Vietnam era men who have been friends since college. This is an exquisite examination of relationships and aging, along with a decades old mystery. One of the best novels of the year. Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey have been friends since they were scholarships students at Minerva College in Connecticut and worked as "hashers" in the dining hall of a sorority. It was while they were in college that the three all listened together to the draft lottery broadcast and they found out that Mickey's number came up first, Lincoln's was in the middle, and Teddy's toward the end. The three were also best friends with Jacy Rockafellow, a member of the sorority where they worked. When they all graduated from Minerva in 1971 the four spent one last weekend at the vacation home on Martha's Vineyard Lincoln's mother owned. This was the weekend Jacy disappeared and no one knows what happened. Now, forty-four years later in 2015, the three friends are sixty-six and back on the Vineyard for a reunion. The mystery of what happened to Jacy will also be on the men's minds. Currently Lincoln is a happily married real estate broker with children and grandchildren. He grew up an only child in Dunbar, Arizona, the son of a domineering father and unassertive mother. Teddy is an editor at a small university press and suffers from spells and depression. He grew up as the only son of high school teachers in the Midwest. Mickey is a hard rock musician. He is the youngest and only son of a large family from West Haven. The novel is about enduring friendships between three very different men who all have their own secrets, but it is also about Jacy and the mystery of what happened to her. Russo excels at developing realistic, sincere male characters who may be flawed but are conscientious and thoughtful. All these men are well developed characters. They have already experienced a life time of growth and changes, yet this weekend will change them. I love the way Russo captures the passage of time and the messiness of life through his characters. Life is rarely clear-cut, straightforward, or uncomplicated and Russo innately understands this and is able to convey this in his novels. Russo is a outstanding writer and all his admirable abilities, both technical and literary, are on display in Chances Are.... The narrative is engrossing and held my complete attention from the beginning to the end. He realistically captures the time and place for these characters throughout the novel. Alternating chapters are told from the point-of-view of Lincoln and Teddy. We learn about their past, their friendship, and their lives leading up to the sixty-six-year-old men they are today. Suspense builds as the question of what happened to Jacy becomes increasingly important and there seems to be a suspect. Only one chapter is told through Mickey's point-of-view, and this is the chapter that provides some answers to questions spoken and unspoken. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday.
CRSK 4 months ago
Over forty years have passed since these three men met during the sixties in college, and now that they’ve reached their sixties, they’ve gathered together on Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend. As we hear their stories, and know what secrets they are holding, keeping them to themselves, there is another story that slowly starts to be unveiled, as well. Revisiting the early years of the war in Vietnam, they reflect back on the night of the first draft lottery, sitting around a tiny black and white television screen, with Mickey’s birthday coming up first, at which point the others begin singing ‘Oh, Canada.” The next birthday among them to come up was Lincoln’s, and then much later, Teddy’s. As they slowly drift out of the house, lost in their own personal reflections on luck, good and bad, they notice Jacy, the spirited, carefree girl from a privileged family that they all loved. They were all in love with her during those years, waiting for them, and she’s standing, waiting for them, for their news. When they see her wrap her arms around Mickey when she hears his news, all of his buddies still in disbelief over his bad luck with the lottery, now only feel envy in this moment. Standing in their old haunts, thoughts drift back, memories of those years when they were in college and wonder what has become of Jacy, the girl who stole all their hearts, and in truth, a part still belongs to her. No longer the young men they were then, they have changed physically along with their years, but are also no longer the carefree, optimistic youths they were then. They are responsible men, with responsible jobs, for the most part. Lincoln is a commercial real-estate broker, Teddy is a small-press publisher, only Mickey lives close by, still living his life as a musician - after his return from Canada. Despite the years, they don’t feel all that different from all those years ago, especially when they’re here, together, like this. But step away from each other, and perspective gives them a new view. Health concerns factor in, limitations they didn’t have so many years ago. But, still, they question: where is Jacy, and why isn’t she there, with them? As they begin to try to find the answer to this, they encounter a seemingly endless series of dead ends. That doesn’t seem to stop the search, or conjecturing on possibilities, but they can’t stop picturing her in these places they wandered through together in their past. Russo excels at creating a strong sense of this place and time, and these ordinary, everyday characters. He seems to conjure them fully formed, all of their quirks and eccentricities on display, so that you can picture them doing some of the things they do, and you feel as if you know them, as though you’ve never not known them. Many thanks to the ARC provided
sjillis 4 months ago
I hadn’t read a Richard Russo novel in a while, and I can’t remember now why I’ve been depriving myself. Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey all attended Minerva College in the late 60s-early 70s. While they came from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, they had a few things in common, other than their friendship—they worked in the kitchen of the Theta house and they were in love with Jacy. Now 66 years old, the three friends gather at Lincoln’s cottage on Cape Cod, just as they did in May 1971. The difference? Jacy isn’t with them. She disappeared after that fateful weekend, leaving her fiancé at the altar. All three men are still haunted by her disappearance, and Lincoln, in particular, is determined to solve the mystery. Told in alternating points of view, with flashbacks to their undergraduate days, CHANCES ARE... is full of wit, mystery, and some cutting social commentary. As distinct as the three men are, I was a little bit in love with all three.
Anonymous 19 days ago
slow at times and politics injected into the book for no purpose other than to inform the reader of the author's political bias. it had nothing to do with the story. He offended me. will not read any of his other books.
Anonymous 4 months ago
repetitious and long-winded mediocore drama