6 reviews

A Matter of Chance: A Novel
by Julie Maloney

Published: 2018-04-10
Paperback : 368 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 6 members
When eight-year-old Vinni Stewart disappears from a Jersey shore town, Maddy, her distraught single mother, begins a desperate search for her daughter. Maddy’s five-year journey leads her to a bakery in Brooklyn, where she stumbles upon something terrifying. Ultimately, her artist ...
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When eight-year-old Vinni Stewart disappears from a Jersey shore town, Maddy, her distraught single mother, begins a desperate search for her daughter. Maddy’s five-year journey leads her to a bakery in Brooklyn, where she stumbles upon something terrifying. Ultimately, her artist neighbor Evelyn reconnects Maddy to her passion for painting and guides her to a life transformed through art.

Detective John D’Orfini sees more than a kidnapping in the plot-thickening twists of chance surrounding Vinni’s disappearance, but his warnings to stay away from the investigation do not deter Maddy, even when her search puts her in danger. When the Russian Mafia warns her to stop sniffing into their business, Maddy must make a choice whether to save one child?even if it might jeopardize saving her own.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


MEMORY DEVOURED THE SUMMER OF THE ONE-YEAR anniversary of Vinni’s disappearance. I thought about renting the house—the perfect punishment—in Spring Haven, but I knew that wasn’t the answer.

John D’Orfini kept his eye on the calendar. In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary, he called and left a voice mail: “Just checking in. D’Orfini.” His voice made me crack a grim smile. I couldn’t deny I liked that he called even when we both conceded the FBI was clearly in charge of the case. A grieving mother was supposed to wait. Hearing from John D’Orfini tided me over during the bleak days when nothing— not one damn thing—happened, unless you counted the rhododendrons blooming on schedule.

Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and, yes, even dates of death carry markers or celebrations. But what was I supposed to do with the approaching anniversary date of Vinni’s disappearance? With each passing day, it seemed, the sky dropped a little more and the air around me grew heavier. I walked the streets, but I stopped noticing things. Sounds fell on deaf ears. I could not believe that I had lived one whole year without Vinni. I had been back at work at the magazine full-time since January 2, but I was well aware that my two assistant editors shouldered most of the workload. People covered for me when I found it impossible to focus. Some afternoons, I slipped out of the office, went home, and hid with a bottle of chardonnay and a bag of chips. On the weekends, I hardly moved from my bedroom. I drugged myself to sleep.

Evelyn dropped off soups bought from a local artisan market, along with fresh rolls tucked inside a brown bag, outside my apartment door. She continued to encourage me to paint, inviting me to exhibits in the West Village, where she was a bona fide celebrity among the young artists, who must have wondered why this older woman dressed in reds and purples brought a drab woman dressed in browns and grays.

When she gave a demonstration on light and shadow, she insisted she needed me to help her carry a tote bag of materials that I knew she could manage herself. All the way home, she tried to engage me in conversation. “What did you think of the middle-aged man who asked me, ‘Where do your ideas come from?’”

I laughed. Finally. I laughed out loud. “And you said, ‘From outside my window’! How could you?”

“I couldn’t resist, darling.” With a dramatic swoop, she flung her sea-green shawl over her shoulder.

For a moment, I had a glimpse into what I couldn’t name, but I knew I had broken through to something only Evelyn could give me. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. The book opens with a quote by Isadora Duncan: “With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” What does this mean?

2. Although there is no excuse for what Hilda and Rudy planned, is there any room for empathy for their own loss?

3. John D’Orfini’s role as detective and romantic partner switches back and forth. What causes them to turn to one another, but also, pull back? Are their feelings ambivalent or too intense?

4. Evelyn lies to Maddy and Kay betrays Maddy. Is it possible to forgive completely? Can forgiveness overcome betrayal?

5. Tuba Schwimmer offers to help Maddy gain a foothold in the art world. Tuba, herself, has suffered. How does grief connect us?

6. Maddy Stewart is a contemporary woman. How does a woman pay attention to her own creative needs while fulfilling her daily responsibilities? Is this a gender-only dilemma?

7. Hannah and George ran away together, binding Hilda to secrecy. Should a secret ever be told? Might staying silent have the same consequences as holding on to a secret?

8. The fictitious town of Spring Haven wants to forget about the disappearance of Vinni. Should we try to forget what is too painful to remember? Or should we secure it in a spot that is hidden but accessible?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Reading guide available
by Homewithatwist (see profile) 06/30/18
Visit www.juliemaloney.net to download a free readers guide to use for book club discussion.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "a matter of chance"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 02/03/19

you can read the summary for yourself. I thought at some points it was a little too long and convoluted - - however it was a good interpretation of how a mother who loses her child mig
... (read more)

  "A Matter of Chance by Julie Maloney"by Judith E C. (see profile) 09/25/18

I very good book. Our club enjoyed it and was thrilled to meet the author and have her join our book discussion. Learning about her research and devotion to getting this published was a treat.

  "Beautiful and Haunting"by Maryann M. (see profile) 07/05/18

Julie Maloney has crafted an incredible debut novel. Beautifully written, with prose that will make you pause and reread, she has also created characters that are so real, you will not forget them after... (read more)

  "Awesome!"by Kathi R. (see profile) 07/05/18

Amazing first novel!! I felt like I was having conversations with Maddy to keep up with her life after her daughter disappears on a NJ beach. You feel her pain, her determination, and her conflicts. I... (read more)

  "Beautiful story of a Mother's love"by Melissa A. (see profile) 06/30/18

This was one of my most favorite reads in a while. It's deeply moving, beautifully descriptive and gripping. I felt like I traveled Maddy' s journey in her grief and loss.

by Laurie R. (see profile) 06/29/18

Loved the complexity of story and characters.

  "A Matter of Chance"by Elizabeth P. (see profile) 04/04/18

Had the kidnapping of Vinni actually been planned? Were Rudy and Hilda watching and planning each time Maddy and Vinni were at the beach?

Maddy couldn't stop blaming herself for Vinni's

... (read more)

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