Chances Are (Russo) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for CHANCES ARE … and then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe each of the three men—Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey—who show up on Martha's Vineyard for this reunion? Talk about the differences in their personalities and backgrounds. Given those differences, what drew them together, years ago, as friends? Of the three, do you have a particular favorite?

2. How has each man changed over the past 44 years, since they were last all together. Importantly, how have they not changed: in what sense do their past lives, even their relationships with their fathers, say, continue to shape them? As Faulkner famously quipped, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." How does that summation play out for Lincoln, Teddy, and Mickey?

3. What was Jacy Calloway like? Discuss the revelations that eventually emerge about her life. What was her relationship with each of the younger men?

4. Lincoln wonders, "What would Jacy think if she could see them now?… Three goddamn old men." How, in fact, might she see them?

5. One of the book's themes is the way random events can set life on a seemingly irreversible path. As Russo writes, "yank out one thread from the fabric of human destiny, and everything unravels. Though it could also be said that things have a tendency to unravel regardless."  How do you see that observation occurring throughout Chances Are….

6. Follow-up to Question 5: What missed opportunities or moral failings, revealed early on in the lives of the characters, have continued to shape each of them and how they have lived their lives?

7. What is the prevailing attitude of the male characters in this book toward women? As Teddy says, "Men. We ignore women when they’re right and we start wars and generally screw things up." The retired policeman even admits, "We don’t do right by girls."

8. Were you caught off guard by the plot twist at the end? Did you see it coming... or not? Some critics have said they didn't even though, in a close re-read, the clues are all there. The Boston Globe, for instance, called the final reveal a "stunner" and a "bombshell," yet one that felt "earned." What were your expectations? 

9. How does the book's title, taken from a Johnny Mathis song, stand in for the book's theme?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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