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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Matters of Chance by Jeannette Haien

Front cover
I picked up "Matters of Chance" by chance at a booksale and  finally took it off my to read shelf.  Published by Harper Collins in 1997, it is a nice fiction story, almost an adult fairy tale, decent writing, almost lyrical in parts, decent characters, who display mixtures and blends of integrity, endurance, persistence, achievement inspiration, how to put on a good front,  and yet it took me a while to completely read all 439 pages.  To me it moved along smoothly but very slowly. Jeannette Haien, the author, was unfamiliar to me,  but apparently she is known as a concert pianist and teacher and has also written "The All of It" according to the back cover.  

I enjoyed the opening with the Thomas Hardy poem, "Afterwards"poem.   This saga of an American family begins in November 1925 in Ohio and follows over the years. Page 1, " Away from home for the first time at a boarding school he did not (then) much like, Morgan Shurtliff was a shy, lonely, fourteen year old dreamer, a bright though erratic student, a passionate reader."  We meet Morgan at the start, main character and while this could have been titled the Tale of Morgan and Maud, there is much more woven through the fictionalized family through World War II and the post war years, their adoption of twins and the efforts of  Miss Zenobia Sly, the administrator of the orphanage where  Maude and Morgan will adopt their twin daughters Julia and Caroline and someone with whom Morgan will keep touch throughout life.  It was intersting to read about the Liberty ships during WWII and Morgan's service on them.  

Page 15, " To read of the lot and destinies of others and of the tests they were put to and triumphed over or failed at made him feel about his own life less amazed, less anxious, less--(he shied from the word for its hint of betrayal to Maud, but it persisted in his thoughts)--hermetic."     

Back cover
I was drawn into dates in this fiction story, when  I noted on page 183 the date "Friday, November 12, 1945"  I was born November 13, 1944, so I thought that if  that date was a Friday, the year before it would have been a Thursday making  November 13, 1944 a Friday.  I had never heard that I was born on a Friday the 13th, so I googled to learn and verify that November 13, 1944 was a Monday!  Phew, relief to me and this miscellaneous trivia.  

Page, 267, "...they would linger over coffee and ruminate outside of Time about nothing much at all, lik two very old people about to pass away--a communion of souls.  Their friendship had become an entity that capable."  

Page 317,  is a lyric tribute to the transition from train travel to airplane.  Morgan will be traveling between Ohio and New York with is law firm. "He thought that from now on, the plane would be the way to go, speed now, the great impulse; the great thing.  No more the train, that old important earthbound prolonger of expectation.  Think how the train had once been hailed.  How Victorian, saluting the wonder of it, had dubbed it "the Iron Horse."  Hail now the plane, celestial, way up there, ripping through the clouds, still ascending.  Angels of Heaven, beware."  Page 318 describes Morgan's widower stage of life after Maud's sudden tragic passing, " Give me a sense of purpose.  .....I hit trouble.  Trouble in the form of myself...I ran into myself coming down the road fom the opposite direction and I saw myself in disarray, without much hope of a future of much value.  I can't think of a better way to say it......".  Page 319 is interesting details about the growth of law firms in the 1970's to address the proliferation of government agencies, regulations, tax policies, "  After  the experience with days and dates, I wondered if this were true, although it does make sense and today we have I feel excessive numbers of lawyers, lawyers on every corner.  Has the solution to a perceived problem become the problem itself?  

I give this book 3 stars, ***, it is a good simple read.  

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