Time and Chance – Alan Brernnert

About the book
A classic novel from the bestselling authorof Moloka’i and Honolulu

Before Alan Brennert became abestselling author of historical novels, he wrote this lyrical fantasy in thevein of The Time Traveler’s WifePart love story, part deeply affecting characterstudy, it is a literary tour de force chronicling the parallel lives of two menwho were once the same man–until, as the poet Robert Frost wrote, “Two roadsdiverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler…”

Thirteen years ago, Richard Cochrane left his small New England town to pursuehis dreams of an acting career. But on some other level of reality thereis also a Rick Cochrane, who chose instead to set aside his dreams, marry thewoman he loved, and raise a family. Today, neither man is happy with the choicehe made–but as their lives, once separated by time and chance, now draw closertogether, Richard and Rick are offered another a last chance to discover“the road not taken.”

Time and Chance displaysthe same vivid sense of time and place–and the vibrant, memorable charactersdrawn with compassion, warmth, and humor–that have made the author’shistorical novels national bestsellers and reading group favorites.
416pages (paperback)
Publishedon: July 5, 2011 (first published Dec. 1990)
Publishedby: Tor
Thanksto Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.
Time and Chance is another one of thosebooks that I got in the mail at the perfect time. I was in the mood forsomething a little lighter, a little less dark and a bit different than mynormal fare of reads. Luckily, this quick read fit right into what I waslooking for. I started in on it the day I received it in the mail, and didn’tput it down until I finished it a day later.
Time and Chance was first published in1990 and is being republished (is that the right terminology?) on July 5, 2011,by Tor. Brennert has an impressive resume. He is a producer and a screenwriter,as well as an author of numerous books, most notably Moloka’i and Honalulu. Hehas even won an Emmy Award in 1991. The reason I mention this isn’t to brag onhis behalf, but it’s to say that you can really see his theatrical influencesin this work. This lends the characters a sense of credibility I would havelacked if the author had obviously researched the terminology and process ofacting rather than experienced them first hand.
Themain plot of Time and Chance mighthave been really unique when it was first published, but these days it didn’tstrike me as particularly new and fresh. While this is usually a point ofcomplaint for me, with Time and Chanceit’s actually a strength of the book. This keeps an easily confusing concepteasy to understand, which, in turn, ensures that most readers will fall easilyinto the plot and follow the characters without spending half the bookwondering what is going on. This, combined with the realism I mentioned in theabove paragraph, really helps the book take flight.
Thepremise for this book is based off of a Robert Frost poem, part of which says:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler…
The book is based around the idea of two men, who were; in fact, alter egos living in parallelworlds. These individuals switch lives so the semi-famous actor can experiencethe life of a family man who married his high school sweetheart, and the otherman can experience life as an actor. Parts of the book reminded me a bit of themove Multiplicity, while the back ofthe book heralds it as reminiscent of the book The Time Traveler’s Wife. Brennert writes the book based on a thememost of us can relate to, the epic “what if” in life. What if I had made this choice, instead of that one…? Thus, thebook, while being interesting, is also an intensely personal journey throughthe lives of the two main characters, as well as the reader themselves.
Brennertis a very talented author. The prose are fairly simple, without too much of aflourish or needless descriptions, but is perfectly balanced by nearly poeticwriting that really wraps itself around the reader. The world and charactersare realistic, and one can really sense Brennert’s background in portions ofthis book which help with the realism. Furthermore, Brennert keeps his cast ofcharacters lifelike and doesn’t neatly, or predictably tie of many of the looseends. Each character faces his own set of decisions and choices, and they dealwith it in a purely human way.
However,the plot does get somewhat bogged down and feels rather slow during the earlyparts of the switch where the two men spend most of their time sorting througheach other’s lives. The details are rich and interesting, but there is a myriadof them, which can seem rather redundant. Despite this, the book does pick uppace again after a time, and leads to a satisfactory ending. Time and Chance is intense, but not inthe “lets run from the bad guys” sense, it is intense in a much more subtle, personal way and therein lies what is so appealing about it. 

While there are fantasy elements in Time and Chance (the parallel worlds, for example) it’s not amazingly oppressive, nor does it it seep into every aspect of the book. This allows Time and Chance to be appealing to fantasy readers, and fiction readers, alike. 

Time and Chance is about the journeyrather than the destination. It’s a book filled with conflict, love, tendernessand confusion all propped up by an intense emotional thread that seems tocompliment the book well, without ever being overdone. If, at points, the plotdid seem to lag, it does pick up and recover, especially during the last thirdof the book. Time and Chance is animpressive character study, which manages to hook the reader while also forcingthem to examine their own lives, and choices.


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