By Chance, Martin Corrick
Random House, 229 pages
On a winter afternoon somewhere in England, James Watson Bolsover is sitting on a bench waiting for a ferry. It’s a quiet day, and there isn’t much to see other than the ten year old girl rollerblading on the dock. Middle-aged Bolsover finds her youthful exuberance entertaining, and it brings him back to his own childhood, which did not, if truth be told, feature the same degree of freedom or joy. From as early as he can remember, Bolsover has found the universe a puzzling place, and consequently spent his childhood scribbling reflections in spiral notebooks in a wild attempt to find some clarity. A few years later, a grammar school teacher explained to him the value of words. Each word has a precise meaning; something is lost or muddled when words are used improperly. For Bolsover, this was a great revelation, and from that moment on, he has used language as his primary tool for making sense of a nonsensical world.
Eventually, Bolsover graduated, apprenticed as an engineer, inherited his parents’ cottage, and married a girl as befuddled as he was. When the engineering firm’s technical writer retired, Bolsover seized the opportunity to work with words all day. His wife, Kitty, stayed home and created a magnificent garden, and together, they lived comfortably for the next sixteen years.
After Kitty’s untimely death, Bolsover lost his way, setting into motion a series of events that led Bolsover to a place of new beginnings. On the island, Bolsover finds a fresh start as a travel writer with a new name and a friend who challenges him out of complacency.
By Chance is a gracefully written exploration of language, ideas, and the courage required to face the randomness of everyday life.