Five star book ratings are thrown around these days like wedding confetti. I understand the enthusiasm, and the desire to be supportive of authors, but I also think that too many five star ratings negate the truly exceptional books out there.

I don't do ratings in my reviews, but if I did, Time and Chance, by Alan Brennert, would get the top score.

I happened upon a copy of Brennert's historical novel, Palisades Park, earlier this year. Remembering praise for the writer from Harlan Ellison, I took a chance. I was enchanted by Palisades Park, and I consider it to be one of the finest books I read in twenty nineteen.

I had heard very good things about Alan Brennert's magic realism novel, Time and Chance, so I hunted down a hardcover and jumped in earlier this week.

Richard Cochrane is a respected actor, a performer of the stage and sometimes screen. His profession affords him a comfortable life in swank New York society. Upon the completion of a pleasant run of live shows, Cochrane is depressed about leaving yet another temporary but beloved family. He regrets that his successful life has left him emotionally barren.

Rick Cochrane once drew praise in high school drama plays, but he chose to marry his sweetheart and abandon his dreams in exchange for financial security and a family. He nows works a drudge job as an insurance adjuster. A decent living, but resentment is eating away at his heart and destroying his family.

Richard and Rick are the same person, whose lives went in opposite directions due to time and chance, and they live in parallell planes of reality. Their paths cross and the two identical but utterly different men get the opportunity to walk into the life they believe they wish to have.

A scenario like the one above could easily be reduced to schmaltz in the hands of a lesser writer, but Alan Brennert is something special. His words are magic and his fiction delves deep into the core of what makes us human.

Time and Chance is a brilliant book, and I don't think it is inappropriate to compare it to works of writers like Richard Matheson and Jack Finney. A novel that recalls Somewhere in Time crossed with Marion's Wall, with touches of Time and Again and What Dreams May Come on the side. Yes, it really is that good.

I've just read two books by Alan Brennert, but I intend to get to more very soon, including his acclaimed and beloved historical novels set in early twentieth century Hawaii.

Yes, that's right, five stars.

Written by Mark Sieber

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