Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition” as Want to Read:
Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  929 ratings  ·  65 reviews

These two unique novels tell the stories of Jack and Brenda Bowman during a rare weekend apart in their many years of marriage. Jack is at home coping with domestic crises and two uncouth adolescents, while immobilized by self-doubt and questioning his worth as a historian. Brenda, travelling alone for the first time, is in a strange city grappling with an array of emotion

...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1980)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Happenstance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Happenstance

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,418)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Debbie
Contemplative. Thought provoking. Slightly depressing.

The first book of the year is complete. I'm ecstatic and relieved. This book was not what I assumed it would be. I must admit I was curious and excited about reading a two sided book. I thought one side is the wife, flipping the book upside/backwards we read the husband, is pretty clever. Why not? There are two sides to every story. I'm going to read the wife's point of view and then the husbands for the same situation. But this is not what
...more
Joanna
These two stories are the lives of ordinary people doing their ordinary things. The husband, Jack, is a historian, a father of two teenagers, and a son to aging parents. His half of the book is his inner dialogue during a week where his wife is away (one of the only times she's been away in their 20 years of marriage). The wife, Brenda, is a stay-at-home spouse, quilter gaining recognition, mother of two teenagers, and only daughter of a now-deceased single mother. I loved reading the perspectiv ...more
Diane
This book was a delightful surprise. It closely meets my criteria for an enjoyable book/movie in being the story of basically dull people to whom nothing much happens - in other words, people like me who are changed by life events. The book is set during one week in 1978 (book was published in 1980) in a Chicago suburb. In a rather hokey fashion that I liked, the book is divided into two parts - one related by the wife and one by the husband. You read one part and then turn the book upside down ...more
Elizabeth
Rather than reading the wife's story and then the husband's story (or vice versa), I read a few chapters of one and then a few chapters of the other, back and forth, until I reached the end. I'm glad I read it this way because I enjoyed comparing what each was doing/thinking at roughly the same point in time. Shields writes both dialogue and interior thought very well. Her characters, especially Jack and Brenda, feel completely alive and well fleshed out. She makes seemingly ordinary lives inter ...more
Cynthia
Another beautiful novel by Carol Shields, this time down from two narrative perspectives, his and hers, during the same time frame. This is the third Shields' novel I have read in the past couple of weeks.
Each of them has been peopled by a married couple with children. Each of them has been full of gentle and startling insights into self and relationships. Shields shows ordinary folks as the simple, complex, base and nobe beings we all are. Her characters are Everyman. After I finished this boo
...more
Georgina
I am interested to see that most people have read the entirety of one spouse's story and then the next, whilst I am interleaving them - reading a few chapters of one, then flipping the book to read the other's timeline. I am enjoying the differences in their paralleled lives, and I feel that the clever contrasts in Shield's writing, in vocabulary and focus, attitudes and narrator reliability are enhanced by reading in this way.
Finished. Felt an odd loyalty towards Brenda, based purely on gender,
...more
Rachel
I've read The Wife's Story and quite enjoyed it. I liked reading about the quilts and found the convention conversations interesting and not a little humourous.

The conventioneer the wife meets really annoyed me; I thought that he was really corny! However I'm not saying the character was unrealistic...

I'm going to read something else in between the books as I started The Husband's Story and found I need a break between the two.

-----

I found the husband's story more interesting than the wife's, t
...more
Amy
I love Carol Shields. So, when I saw this at the used bookstore, I snapped it up. As always, Carol touches on relationships with finesse and subtlety. There's a bit of a gimmick in that the book is told from two points of view of a marriage: one half is the wife's, the other her husband's. Both are of the same period of time when Brenda, the wife, travels to Philadelphia for a conference, leaving Jack at home with the kids. I think you can pick which you read first, although the true cover is Br ...more
Hannah Baker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maggie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca
I liked Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries so much that I had to read this book, but it did not mean as much to me. Maybe that's because I'm not as interested in an exploration of happenstance as I would be in an exploration of intent. Still, I enjoyed reading this. And happenstance happens.

Here's a passage I liked:

But anything can break the fragile arc of fortune, anything. There are casualties everywhere; Brenda is always running into them or hearing about them. She has been one of the lucky on
...more
Janet Gardner
I loved the double structure of this book--two different perspectives on the same week in the course of a mostly-good-but-somewhat-problematic marriage. And as always with Shields, the prose is superb.
KG Gardner
Happenstance is two stories, two points of view, of the same week in the life of a married couple. She is at 40 years just discovering herself. She leaves home for a week quilting conference. Flip the book over and start a second page one of what happens at home while she's away from the viewpoint of the husband. Do couples know each other really? As close as they exist and as deep their feelings are for one another do they (we) really understand each other? A read for a Text and Textiles course ...more
Phoebe
I really like the way Carol Shields writes. She elevates ordinary activity, ordinary life in such a way that you really care about her characters. This book is two, one from the point of view of a wife and the other (by turning the book upside down and opening from the other side) from the point of view of a husband. Shields doesn't describe the same events from two perspectives, just the same period of time. This is not a book of murders and car chases. I recommend it.
Paige
Carol Shields (along with fellow female Canadian writers Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro) is one of my favorite novelists. This book was written more than a decade before her acclaimed "The Stone Diaries" but has similar literary writing style and insightful descriptions of characters. She also wickedly skewers social mores of the 1970s. The book is comprised of 2 novellas that look at a marriage from different angles, one told by the wife and one by the husband.
Fran
In 1980, Brenda and Jack Bowman are apart for five days while Brenda, a quiltmaker, attends a crafts exhibition in Philadelphia. Read the book from the pink side, and you follow Brenda's journey. Read it from the blue side, and you see what happens to Jack, who stays in Chicago with their two children. I found each character study both surprising and touching, and became attached to both protagonists. A sensitive, precise, beautifully written book.
Jax Wood
I'm thoroughly enjoying this double novel. I chose the husband's side of the book first, in part to see if Carol Shields captured a genuine male voice as beautifully as she did in Larry's Party. She did! I'm now half way through the wife's side, and as with all books by Shields, the imagery she evokes is more vivid to me than with almost any other author. I know these people she writes about. I have met them.
Pat Osment
I did enjoy this book as it gave a really good insight into a married couples relationship and how they perceive each other.It showed how they functioned when apart from each other.Brenda seemed to fare better than Jack but it made them appreciate each other all the more when they were reunited.
At times I did get bored with the style of writing and irritated by the continual use of interrupted dialogue.
Mariah
This was really sloooow and it just wasn't grabbing me. I liked the idea of half the book told from the woman's point of view then half told from the man's but the author didn't do it very well. After recently having read some other books where it was done much more deftly (Olive Kitteredge, The Girls) I see why I didn't enjoy this. Can't put my finger on it exactly but it just didn't work for me.
Tekapope
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Oct 29, 2009 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Chipp
Interesting premise...essentially two books in one, where you learn what happens during five days that a married couple spends away from each other, from each of their perspectives. The focus on domestic minutiae irritated me occasionally, and I didn't really love either character.

I recommend reading The Husband's Story first, though you could go either way.
Kirsty Darbyshire

Catching up with a big backlog of read books, hence very short writeups.

This is two separate stories The Wife's Tale and The Husband's Tale set during the same period of time. It wasn't anything like I thought it was going to be. They are really quite loosely joined pieces and weren't originally published as a set.

Hava Liberman
Carol Shields chooses words like a chef picks the right knife for the job. She somehow conveys a complex and tortuous emotional state in a single uncomplicated sentence. How does she do it? My only complaint about this book is that the gender attitudes are a bit dated and stereotyped...but it's not like that's really gone away now either.
Roxann
Interesting to read if only because of the format - two books in one - two different perspectives, the husband and the wife. Two covers on the book, one the wife's, one the husband's. Start reading one, flip the book upside down and read the other from the back cover. They both end in the middle of the book which is where they meet.
Sheila
This book is very interesting. It tells the story about a marriage from two perspectives, that of the wife and that of the husband. Each half of the book reads from one side to the middle. This is one of my all time favorites but probably would be enjoyed by someone who has been married awhile more than a young single person.
D
Few authors write with the clarity and utter believability of the characters, but Carol Shields is one who does. In this book she writes from the male and female perspective, a week in their lives, and in that time you explore the foundations and development of that relationship and marriage, the luck and paths taken.
Debbie
Great Carol Shields novel. Not one of her more popular ones but I don't know why. Week in the life of a married couple from the wife's perspective and then the husband's (or vice versa depending on how you want to read it). Didn't really care for the wife, did like the husbands so enjoyed his week more but an original fun book.
Chipp
There's a gimmic - two stories, one husband, one wife, and you gotta flip the book to flip between them. But it's great - in a way the second story no matter which you read first is the best, because you know what's going on on the other side. Takes place in the late-70's in Chicago, rawsome in setting and mood.
Tiah
The two stories tell so much about perspective, reliance / relationships and inter fumblings of the 'getting through life.' Shield's is quietly powerful. Taken the mundane and seemingly non-trendy 'blah' every day aspects of life and making vivid pictures and statements without being obvious.
Kaisa
Paljon kehuttu Rakkauden tasavalta oli hyvä, mutta NYT vasta pääsin kunnolla Shieldsin makuun. Johtuiko sitten siitä, että luin tämän alkukielellä? Tiedä häntä, joka tapauksessa mahtava kirja. Viiltävä, mutta lempeä. Elin täysillä nelikymppisen avioparin molempien puoliskojen tunteissa mukana.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 47 48 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Changing Heaven
  • Fast Forward
  • Look for Me (Tel Aviv Trilogy #2)
  • The Romantic
  • Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems
  • Summer of My Amazing Luck
  • The Fire-Dwellers
  • Disappearing Moon Cafe: A Novel
  • Such Is My Beloved
  • Dinner Along the Amazon
  • As for Me and My House
  • Solomon Gursky Was Here
  • The Rules of Engagement
  • Adultery
  • The Whole Day Through
  • The Frozen Thames
  • Random Passage
  • Open Secrets
12034
Carol Ann Shields was an American-born Canadian author. She is best known for her successful 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Governor General's Award. Her novel Swann won the Best Novel Arthur Ellis Award in 1988.


More about Carol Shields...
The Stone Diaries Unless Larry's Party Jane Austen: A Life The Republic of Love

Share This Book