Guests of Chance

By Margaret Goldik

A review of Guests Of Chance by Colleen Curran

Published on October 1, 2005

Guests Of Chance
Colleen Curran

Goose Lane Editions
$29.95
cloth
310pp
0-86492-438-0

Guests of Chance is the final book in Colleen Curran’s Lenore trilogy, and probably shouldn’t be read on its own. Readers are advised to go back to Something Drastic and Overnight Sensation (both from Goose Lane) to get up to speed on heroine Lenore Rutland and the astonishing cast of characters that overflow these comic novels. Be warned, also, that Curran is very, very funny, and reading about Lenore can become addictive.

The first few pages of Guests of Chance are set on an airplane, with a hilarious stream-of-consciousness inner monologue from petrified Lenore, who is off to Britain with best friend Heidi. Heidi is smitten with Miles (of Near Sheffield) who visited Montreal in an earlier novel. Miles turns out to be not worth the trip, but his warm, eccentric family talks Lenore (aka “A Star is Born”) into filling in when the pantomime performer playing Noddy has to have all her wisdom teeth extracted. Lenore learns all the songs in 22 hours, and is filled in on Noddy’s motivation by Heidi, a Concordia English professor.

The story rides off in all directions – to Hollywood, where a character from Overnight Sensation is nominated for an Academy Award; Le Festin, the theme restaurant where Lenore works, and which a character from an earlier novel tries to drive out of business; Baie d’Urfé, where Elspeth, the World’s Worst Mother, tries to talk lesbian Viola into being artificially inseminated with her husband’s sperm via a hypodermic syringe; Montreal, where Daniel the gay fireman has to “Come Out” to his close-knit Irish Catholic family; the Yellow Door, where Viola stirs up a feminist storm with her open-mic performance – and more, much more.

This manic outpouring is both the strength and the weakness of Curran’s novel. She has a kitchen-sink approach to comedy – put it in and see what happens – and the events sometimes seem more chaotic than plotted. On the other hand, if one reads the first two books, Guests of Chance not only makes sense, it provides happy endings for most of the characters, or at least the ones who deserve happy endings.

We really care about Lenore. Rather than being a Sophie Kinsella-type one-dimensional character, she is fully developed: caring, quirky, humorous, unsophisticated, astute. The kind of woman, in fact, who would make a wonderful friend. The implausible plotlines and people take on a life of their own in Curran’s writing, and her comedy is based on clear-sighted observations, not unkindness. Her list of writing credits is long on plays, relatively short on novels. It will be interesting to see what she does next. mRb

Margaret Goldik is a former editor of the Montreal Review of Books.

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