By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Adam Verner
Kem Nunn’s book is a novel about derivatives of Chance; he suggests chance is an integral part of human’ nature. There is chance in genetics, in living, in parenting, in love, in health, in death. Nunn creates a story about the inadvertent nature of life. The main character of Nunn’s book—wait for it—is Dr. Chance.
Dr. Chance is a neurophysiologist and psychiatrist, a perfect job description; a profession that presumes superior physical and psychological understanding of human beings. However, Dr. Chance is burdened by human flaws, flaws that magnify life’s unpredictability. The hero confronts middle age with a divorce pending, and a teenage daughter’s rebellion. The ice covering this lake of trouble is a mid-life crises–Dr. Chance’s desire to be young and in love again.
Nunn’s characters seem formulaic in the beginning but, as the story unfolds, they become unique. Chance is born into wealth, with intelligent parents that can support him through the expense of a great education. Chance is a spoiled product of an abundant life. In his early career, he falls into an ethical dilemma that nearly destroys his reputation and drives his parents to despair. In mid-life, Chance repeats his mistakes with another ethical dilemma; another broken family.
Chance is compelled to sell his slightly imperfect antique office furniture to meet tax audit questions and personal expenses. By chance, he meets a furniture dealer that knows the value of antiques and is willing to repair his furniture’s imperfections with counterfeit improvements. The repairs will double the value of the furniture to a less well-informed buyer. The antique dealer employs a man named Big D that can make the repairs. Big D is a hulk, a hulk born in a family of wealth and intelligence that abandoned him. By chance, Big D’s mother is killed in an accident and his father, a nuclear physicist, leaves his son with his grandparents. His grandparents are “mummy-dearest” crazies that lock him in the dark.
Upon return of his father, with a new wife and new children, Big D becomes an abused outsider. Big D runs away from home at sixteen. He becomes a survivalist. He teams with homeless veterans. He learns about weapons. He works as an enforcer for loan sharks. The tone of Nunn’s story is set. Chance illustrates ethically bad judgment and Big D shows skilled capability, and violence.
The missing formulaic ingredients are a femme fatale and an evil protagonist. Nunn offers a “dissociative personality” named Jacqueline, and at other times, Jackie. She is the seductively beautiful femme fatale with a split personality. Nunn adds a corrupt, mob-connected cop that pimps for Jackie and oddly loves one or both personalities.
Here we have a questionably ethical psychiatrist, a highly skilled and intelligent survivalist, a beautiful woman, and a bad cop. What could possibly go wrong? Chance is an entertaining story; expertly narrated by Adam Verner.