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Chances Are . . .: A novel by Richard Russo

I’ve just started reading Richard Russo’s newest novel, Chances Are… (July 30), which is set on Martha’s Vineyard. The book starts off with a reunion of three men in their mid-sixties. They met in college, and while their lives took different paths, they stayed in touch. Russo is 69 years old, and this book has an autobiographical feel to it, in that I can imagine him mining his own relationships for the story. But there’s a plot device that I assume isn’t from his past, something that adds a darker edge, and a little suspense, to the story.

There’s a genre of novel, written by lions in the their late sixties and seventies, that I’ve found myself enjoying over the past few years. I’m thinking of authors like Paul Auster and Michael Ondaatje. The writing is maybe a little more free than in their past novels, and they tend to be looking back even as they are moving forward in the story. Two themes stand out to me in these booksthe unpredictability of life, and the effect that choices and events have on our later selves. I like these themes, because even as we work to direct our own lives, we are always navigating on a big, capricious, and amoral ocean. OK, I’m getting a little too deep for myself. And maybe there’s a simpler way of summing up these books. Maybe Russo’s book will help me to sort out what I’m trying to say here. —Chris Schluep

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