MATTERS OF CHANCE by Jeannette Haien

MATTERS OF CHANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Septuagenarian Haien's second novel (The All of It, 1986) is a simplistic though satisfying and pretty much traditional family chronicle. The word ""saga"" may be too dramatic to describe this history of the Shurtliff clan, since their lives are happily free of long-term suffering, shocking revelations, or mysterious people. Instead, Haien has crafted an old-fashioned tale in which nothing much happens but ordinary life. Beginning with the courtship and subsequent marriage of Maud and Morgan Shurtliff, two upper-crust Ohioans, the novel paints an attractive picture of the young couple, rich, kind, and deeply in love. The only shadow thrown across their lives is Maud's infertility, which leads the pair to the eccentric Miss Zenobia Sly and her Tilden-Herne Adoption Agency. They bring home happiness in the form of twin infant girls, Caroline and Julia. Soon after, WW II erupts, and the reader follows Morgan's ordeal in the Navy. After the war, a more somber Morgan returns home, picks up his law practice, and prospers; the girls grow; and the family buys a large manor house. All the while, Morgan keeps in contact with Miss Sly (against Maud's wishes: the elderly lady is a reminder of their girls' adoption), and the two form a warm, confidential (and platonic) friendship. Time passes, the girls go off to Bryn Mawr, and just as Morgan and Maud are preparing for a long European holiday in celebration of partial parental freedom, Maud dies of a brain haemorrhage. The latter parts of the story are devoted to the ways in which the family puts itself back together, how life moves on, and how love blooms again. Not plot but character creates the charm here: The relationship between Morgan and his charismatic father, his confidences with Miss Sly, and his interactions with his daughters are all depicted in affectionate detail. Far from groundbreaking fiction, but a gratifying, companionable read nonetheless.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: HarperCollins