Along with his wry eye for irony and regret, [Russo] offers up a compelling mystery. Savvy readers who pride themselves on anticipating a plot twist, spotting a red herring, and identifying the who-did-it are in for a surprise ... a 21st century version of The Big Chill ... When the denouement comes, it’s a stunner. Nevertheless, all bombshells feel earned. If you’re on a hammock in the Vineyard or under a tent in Acadia, or slumped over the fire escape of your hot city apartment, chances are your chances are awfully good that you’ll lap up this gripping, wise, and wonderful summer treat.
For a while Chances Are ... turns into a mystery, and a riveting one ... and the novel culminates in a rush of revelations about all of its characters. Russo’s novels always wrestle with the complexities of human relationships, from first love to parenthood to aging, and they’re always rich with humor. He’s at the top of his fine form in Chances Are ..... Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey are flawed and damaged, but Russo treats them with such big-hearted warmth we feel as if we know them, and they’re well worth knowing.
Russo has crafted a twisty novel about lies, secrets and a missing friend's 'ghostly presence' ... his latest is often satisfying, a brisk story with memorable characters and smart things to say about loss and missed opportunities ... Two of Russo's male characters...are complex and believable. Mickey, alas, is more a type than a person, a Harley-riding rocker who isn't given many good lines ... As Russo's characters grapple with the book's central mystery, a second emerges; though this one features an unconvincing revelation, it provides a fuller picture of Jacy, elevating the novel above those that employ the woman-in-peril trope yet neglect to make her a multidimensional character.
The suspense may carry you through the first half of the novel, but what works better is Russo’s depiction of his central characters, with their father issues and insecurities about class and money, their ingrained cluelessness about women and their need to present a certain image to the world, even if they’re pretty sure the world couldn’t care less ... requires a pretty hefty suspension of disbelief ... is, at heart, less a mystery than an evocation of what happens when you subscribe to 'the peculiarly male conviction that silence conveyed one’s feelings better than anything else ... can be affecting precisely because these old friends have so much difficulty articulating their emotions.
... a compelling tale of friendship, sacrifice, loss, and redemption ... The book is darkly humorous at times, particularly in its portrayal of the political and social attitudes of the late 60s and 70s, which contrast those in 2015 during the run up to the most recent presidential election. But it is the utter joy and heartbreak these three men share that make Chances Are . . . a near perfect book.
Few dissect painful father-son dynamics and the tensions of small-town life with such intelligence and heart; in Chances Are, these elements anchor the author in rich emotional territory yet again ... But structurally (and, in turn, aesthetically), the novel develops into a masculine melodrama. Until its dud of a climax ... Chances Are settles into a moving rhythm. But for some reason, Russo traps three men he could write in his sleep in a dreary beachside mystery ... Russo can weave a tale as well as anyone, but he shows his work too much here — and the work is clumsy.
Russo has become our senior correspondent on masculinity. No one captures so well the gruff affection of men or the friction between guys from different classes ... rotates gently through these characters — each one so appealing that you hate to let him go, though you’ll quickly feel just as fond of the next one ... Russo clearly knows the pleasures and perils of retrospection, and he’s constructed a novel about the way the past constantly bleeds into the present ... One of the great pleasures of Chances Are. . . stems from how gracefully Russo moves the story along two time frames, creating that uncanny sense of memories that feel simultaneously near and remote ... best when it focuses on that tantalizing interplay of past and present, the insistent way that adolescent experiences and parental expectations continue to circumscribe our hopes and dreams ... What’s more disappointing, though, is the way the novel doubles down on the hackneyed cliche of the tragic, unattainable beauty...As college students, these smitten guys never really knew Jacy, and four decades later on Fantasy Island, they don’t seem to understand the fundamental immaturity of their regard ... Unfortunately, Russo tries to complicate our understanding of Jacy by diving deeper into the mystery of her disappearance. That results in a long section of increasingly melodramatic revelations involving a host of offstage characters. But this isn’t storytelling; it’s gossip ... Once the novel gets back to the present day, it regains a more nuanced and satisfying tone ... It’s disappointing to see how firmly such complexity is denied the female characters.
Mr. Russo is off and running, effortlessly shifting between past and present as he furnishes the details of the men’s lives. Regular readers of the author will encounter some very familiar pleasures, whether it’s his portrayal of the jokey, spiky back-and-forth of longstanding friendship or the appearance of colorful side characters ... But while Mr. Russo has never been averse to Dickensian melodrama, he’s added more schmaltz than usual to Chances Are . . . Indeed, the nostalgia reaches threat level orange. More troublesome is the somewhat half-hearted grab at topicality in his reliance on a missing girl, the single most overused gimmick in fiction today. The homiletic conversations about violence against women amplify the awkward absence of women’s perspectives. Mr. Russo is often sure-handed with current events...but this time you get the sense that he hasn’t caught up with the news cycle.
... a well-intentioned, easy thriller about a missing person, but is marred by its formulaic plotting and outmoded ideas about gender ... These men are rather dull archetypes ... The biggest problem, however, is the attitude toward women, especially Jacy, who for most of the book is little more than a 'braless' bauble the men covet. Gendered bromides litter the text...There is the seemingly obligatory reference to the 2016 election, which amounts to little more than Lincoln musing that he could never vote for Hillary ... It’s not that aging white men who think like this don’t exist; it’s whether or not you really care to read their stories anymore.
Although Chances Are . . . , Richard Russo’s deeply absorbing and often achingly sad new book, is not crime fiction per se, the cold case of a young woman gone missing 44 years before the book begins brings Russo much closer to Dennis Lehane territory than one might have ever expected him to go. Russo proves himself more than capable of sustaining the sort of taut suspense such a story demands ... Chances Are . . . takes chances none of Russo’s previous novels take, but also revisits many of the themes of his earlier books ... It also deals quite forcefully with the impact of Vietnam on Russo’s generation ... Richard Russo’s acute understanding of the world that made him, his unflagging empathy for the women and men who made it, and his unerring ear and eye for the sidesplitting humor in at all, nine inimitable novels in, remain his signature gifts.
Russo’s many strengths come together here in one thoughtful and extremely readable package. His quietly elegant prose is perfect for rendering forth the emotional dynamic of the aging man; his knack for bringing small towns to life and his love of the coast come into play as well. And through it all, the steady tick-tock of time passing – a sound that is far less frightening when Russo controls the clock ... Chances Are … offers up the standard Russo blend of humor and pathos, yes. But there’s also a darker undercurrent than we usually get from him ... Connecting the past and present in a way that feels genuine and earned takes a narrative deftness possessed by precious few writers. Russo does it with seeming effortlessness, building full, rich connections with a scant handful of sentences before simply drawing us into the community that he has created. Chances Are … is one more wonderful book from a man responsible for a lot of them. It’s a tidal read – as gentle and steady as it is strong and inexorable. I read it in a day; it’s a cliché to say, 'I didn’t want to put it down,' but … I didn’t.
The prose is assured and frequently lovely, and the characters jump off the page. He writes with a level of compassion and emotional precision that precious few can match ... Chances Are… reads like a prestige literary writer’s reluctant take on a mystery novel. But while it seems to go out of its way to be unthrilling, that isn’t the book’s primary flaw. The problem is, in fact, the gone girl: Jacy is a manic pixie dream ghost, an object of desire characterized with shorthand gestures, even when her story takes center stage during the climax of the book ... The mystery of Jacy’s vanishing is the engine of the novel, but Jacy is more device than character.
The men, on the other hand, are achingly well-defined ... Chances Are… may not be a perfect book, but there’s heart and beauty on every page.
... a surprising work that is as much a mystery as a meditation on secrets and friendship ... Fans of Russo’s work will know what to expect from Chances Are . . . , including the many scenes of male bonding and the colorful dialogue. If some of the material is familiar, the book is nevertheless a moving portrait of aging men who discover the world’s worst-kept secret: You may not know the people you thought you were closest to.
... will appear in stores as temptingly as a beer and sunscreen discount pack and will hold special appeal for guys otherwise rarely willing to dip a toe into the murky waters of fiction ... Let’s not kid ourselves: This is not Russo’s finest effort. The prose is as plain and functional as the kitchen of a vacation rental and the characters seem a bit stock. At times, moreover, the maestro conducts this particular summer concert with a heavy hand ... Worst of all, the vanished apple of our trio’s eyes is named Jacy Rockafellow, evidently combining the sacrificial virtues of Jesus Christ with the sex appeal of Marilyn Monroe. None of the book’s women are as richly drawn as the men, but Russo is concerned with the horrible things men do to women and to which Lincoln, Teddy and Mickey’s generation is at last awakening ... Despite its shortcomings, Chances Are. . . is an engrossing and well-crafted summer entertainment that plays to the author’s strengths. As usual, Russo is attuned to the complicated resentments of class and the possibility, never terribly far below the surface, of violence erupting among men as it does periodically in this book. He’s also good at exploring the way time changes us.
... around the shivers and guilts of a missing person story, Russo ultimately remains loyal to his previous mission to represent realistically the textures of average lives. The impeccably delayed revelation of what happened to Jacy is satisfying, but more Russo than Ian Rankin ... Though the solutions lie in the 1969 and 1971 insets, the main time frame of September 2015 is politically timely ... Russo’s acute novels will help historians to understand how Trump, who had a medical deferment from Vietnam, garnered support among those unable to vacation on Cape Cod. Chances Are, a rare mix of the tense and tender, should gain Russo further literary acclaim.
For his first stand-alone novel in 10 years, Russo has written a bewitching tale of male friendship with thriller elements, leading to a shift in tone and pacing that may startle his loyal readers. That Russo takes deeps philosophical dives, in the subtlest ways, into issues of fate and free will and loyalty and lies won’t surprise anyone. This is vintage Russo with a cunning twist.
Russo's...14th book blends everything we love about this author with something new. Yes, this is a novel about male friendship, fathers and sons, small-town class issues, and lifelong crushes, and it provides the familiar pleasure of immersion in the author's distinctive, richly observed world and his inimitable ironic voice ... No one understands men better than Russo, and no one is more eloquent in explaining how they think, suffer, and love. At a rough time for masculinity, Russo's flawed but always decent characters are repositories of the classic virtues of their gender.
There is a great deal of mordant memory in Chances Are… In his admirably inimitable fashion, Russo, with a patently clean, direct style and acerbic wit, captures the lost innocence of idyllic youth, the grand delusions of a pastoral collegiate experience, and the constant moral itch of lingering guilt ... His cogent deftness at acute observation and critical social commentary underscores how the four friends are chastened by life’s perplexing exigencies and character-defining events.
Russo’s first standalone novel in a decade...mixes his signature themes—father-and-son relationships, unrequited love, New England small-town living, and the hiccups of aging—with stealthy clue-dropping in a slow-to-build mystery ... In the final stretch, surprising, long-kept secrets are revealed. This is vintage Russo.
Russo admirers can rest assured that Chances Are provides the satisfactions of the novels for which he’s best known. There’s the classic Russo tussle between small-town serenity and his characters’ disequilibrium, dialogue so effortless-seeming that it’s easy to overlook the skill that went into chiseling it, and the long-suppressed disclosures and hard-won revelations of getting-on-in-years male protagonists.