Coincidence by J.W. Ironmonger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was not what I was expecting. First of all, the book begins with a few strands of the same story. A child is found at a fair without an adult. She has bright red hair and a small scar on her face. She is soon placed with a couple named Folley and adopted. The original parents remain a mystery for many years. Somewhat forever. there is then an earlier strand of the Christening of a baby girl which goes awry. The first oddity is that the child has three godfathers, which is explained soon thereafter. The second is that the child finds herself with an identifying scar which helps with the rest of the book.
At last we meet Marion, the birth mother of Azalea. She finds herself pregnant with Azalea and takes her concerns to the minister who later accidentally blesses Azalea with her scar. The quandary revolves around the fact that Marion is single and the DNA donor is one of three men. She tosses her fate to seagulls.
Does this all seem random? Perhaps it is. Or is it Providence? Could it be predetermination? Because, much later, in a comical description of a few broken bones at the bottom of an escalator and then a proper meeting of Azalea and Thomas Post, Azalea recounts the coincidences of her life. Information regarding her history, the fates of those contributing to her care and parentage have come to light. Certain dates tend to coalesce into tragedy and patterns have emerged.
The cerebral discussions of coincidences, chance, statistical probability and philosophy added to the story but was much less interesting to me than the descriptions of events, landscape, interactions, and history. Because, out of context, it seems random, Azalea's biggest turning points occur in Africa. Specifically Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. There is a helpful map at the beginning of the book to assist the reader in understanding the geographical impact of choices made. Without revealing the story too much, Azalea's life is once again uprooted and the direction altered by the actions of one man; Joseph Kony, who is an actual man and made of stuff from nightmares.
We know that Azalea returns to England and teaches poetry where she meets the somewhat nihilistic Thomas Post. Between her conception and the time with Thomas is a journey that defies statistical probability but can be put into a neat little equation. The events are not statistically improbable. What happens from the time she leaves Thomas and the ending of the book Is what then defines Azalea. For those of us who are a little thick, one character spells it out for Thomas. And the reader. Worthwhile read. Great for book club.