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Happenstance

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  115 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
His wife away for the first time, Jack is at home coping with domestic crises and two adolescents while immobilized by self-doubt and questioning his worth as a historian.

This is the husband's story now found in Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition, originally published on its own in 1980 as Happenstance.
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published October 1st 1980 by McGraw-Hill Companies
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Teresa
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I first read Carol Shields in 2003 (with Unless), then read a few of the novels and short-story collections published right before. After that I moved further backwards in time, to her first two novels, with plans to read all of her one day. Until this week, I hadn't picked her up since late 2008. While her third novel is not as good as the others I've read by her, it's still worthwhile, especially if you are a Shields fan.

I enjoyed the dated aspects of this novel set in 1970s Chicago, though wh
...more
Jerry Delaney


The edition I read was two novels in one, covering the same time frame with a married couple. The first one I read was the wife's tale as she traveled to a quilting convention, almost had an affair, and returned to Oak Park, IL. Then you flip the book around and read the story from the husband's view, as he stayed home in Oak Park.

I have always liked Shields' characterizations and how she explored the intricacies of marriage and how much we know - or don't know - each other. I really liked the w
...more
Maria Stevenson
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This time it really worked, Carol Shields' playfulness with form. She literally turned things upside down, having half the book (the wife's story) be right side up and the other half, (the husband's story) be upside down. Of course the reverse could be said, that the husband's POV is right side up and the wife's is upside down. Point being, you had to turn the book upside down to read the other half's story. There really is no" better half" here: both sides are interesting and full of insight, w ...more
Carolyn
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-good-one-yes
I read the wife's side first, then the husbands. This book is told in a very interesting fashion. Marriage from both sides. I liked how she played with this form. However, I've know few marriages this nice although rocky at times. Do people really love like this or were my exes just jerks? Anyway , good book.
Angela Lewis
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting, read the wife's story first - and wonder if most would start the other end? - lots of content, thought provoking and entertaining, mirroring and separate. A quiltmaker myself, though not American, related to this theme and how it relates to the whole story including its end.
Marla
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed this book (even though it was full of typos)!
An entertaining story, well-written, engaging. Reading Brenda's story felt like I was reading my own story, sort of.
Felicity J
This is another book by Shields that is deft in its observations of relationships. I was drawn in by the he-said-she-said format but forgot it getting to know the main characters. In Shields' novels the everyday and commonplace are the focus and this just makes her novels more fascinating.

Instead of flowery sentiment on morality, you see the characters posed with ethical questions where decision is required.

Another thing I like in her writing is the sense of mindfulness the characters achieve i
...more
Cheryl
Oct 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carol Shields "happenstance" was a nice diversion from the ordinary. Liked the original approach of having the wife tell her story and the husband telling his. Marriage and the journeys we take either away from home as Brenda or at home as her husband are often filled with surprises and learning about ourselves.

It was fun to revisit the 70s when cell phones did not exist and you could be alone with your thoughts.
Pam
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was really disappointed in this book. I had expected something much deeper and well written by Pulitzer Prize winning author. I found the plot interesting, but poorly developed. The characters were immature and shallow. I barely finished it and almost dropped it altogether.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Fidelity, quilts, middle-aged-ness, meaning of life.
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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...