Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: "Coincidence" by J.W. Ironmonger

Do coincidences really exist? Are our lives determined by chance or does a guiding force dictate what will happen?

On Midsummer's Day (June 21), 1982, three-year-old Azalea Ives is found wandering in the midst of a fair in the United Kingdom. With no sign of any parental figures, and her being too young to provide information about her family or where she lives, she is entered into the foster care system and eventually adopted by teachers Luke and Rebecca Folley.

Ten years later, on June 21, 1992, Azalea's adoptive parents are killed in Uganda, part of an uprising led by notorious warlord Joseph Kony.

The confluence of these events, and the fact that other things have occurred in Azalea's life more than once, has led her to believe that on June 21, 2012, she will die as her mother and adoptive parents before her. She seeks out Thomas Post, a professor specializing in the study of coincidences, to see if he can shed some light on her fate. Post believes that life happens randomly, but the more he gets to know Azalea and learns about how her life has unfolded, the more he starts to wonder—and worry if she might be right about meeting her death on that same day.

Coincidence spans from 1982 to the present, from the United Kingdom to Uganda. It's a tremendously intriguing book that debates whether fate has a hand in determining the course of our future, and whether there is anything that can be done if we believe that to be true. It's also a book about whether you should live your life for the moment instead of worrying about what your fate might be, and how emotions trip up our rational thoughts.

I enjoyed the premise of this book, and liked when it focused on Azalea's story throughout the years and her uncovering the many similarities or coincidences in her life. However, I felt the book spent a little too much time laying out her family's time in Uganda and Joseph Kony's reign of terror (although some of it is explained later in the book) and that took away from the power of the story. I also felt in trying to lay out an argument about whether coincidences really do exist, the book got a bit technical and heavy-handed.

At its heart, this is a powerful, emotional story. I just wish the actual story got more attention than the message the book was trying to convey. But it's still very fascinating, especially if you believe in coincidences.

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