About the Book
At thirty-two, Betsy is sheltered. Sheltered by a close-knit family, Catholic schools, college in her hometown, and a marriage at 20. It takes the discovery of her husband’s serial philandering to open her eyes and push her out of the nest. It’s the summer of 1981, Betsy grabs a backpack and a few good books and puts distance—geographically and emotionally—between herself and the life she knew in the American Midwest. She begins to make her own decisions: about cities, hotels, and dinner entrées. At airports, on trains, and in pensiones, Betsy takes her first steps into independence as she negotiates the brief, but intense relationships travelers have.
Armed with a book of travelers’ phrases and a Swiss Army Knife, she brushes up against possibilities for connection, almost entering the life stories of the strangers she chances upon and whose paths we follow in alternating chapters. We become acquainted with a devout Muslim on a pilgrimage, a French financier raised on a rabbit farm, a lawyer on a solo honeymoon, a Pakistani gambler, a beguiling American threesome en route to Venice, an Italian hotel owner on Lake Como, and a passionate Irish protestor who literally carries her to safety from the streets of Dublin. Finally, back home, Betsy comes to the startling realization that her journey is only just beginning.
Praise for The Opposite of Chance
When we hearken to the wisdom of our literary ancestors, we get a novel like The Opposite of Chance, and an author like Margaret Hermes, a virtuoso writer navigating the only path that leads to genuine empathy, by embracing multitudes. Bold and brave, Hermes accepts no boundaries on the imagination.
—BOB SHACOCHIS, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands and Swimming in the Volcano
This quick-and-clever Hermes has wings on her prose and a god’s eye view, compassionate and wise, of the human comedy. Her plucky heroine’s European journey is replete with excursions into the lives of her fellow travelers, taking us along on a novelistic grand tour de finesse.
—JASON SOMMER, Whiting Award-winning author of The Laughter of Adam and Eve and The Man Who Sleeps in My Office
In the artfully picaresque The Opposite of Chance, Margaret Hermes writes, as she always does, with humor and wisdom about women and men and love and sex. And she shines light on those of us who are defined, at least in part, by what we don’t know or understand.
MARY TROY, winner of the USA Book Award for Beauties and a Nelson Algren Prize winner.
Praise for Margaret Hermes
The range in vision is compelling . . . humor and compassion and a fresh spin on the way people deal with the most vulnerable aspects of life . . .In Hermes’ writing, movement between innocence and experience is constant as is the weighing of love against passion and lust.
—JILL McCORKLE, author of Carolina Moon and Final Vinyl Days
About the Author
Margaret Hermes grew up in Chicago and lives in Saint Louis. Her short fiction collection, Relative Strangers, was the recipient of the Doris Bakwin Award. In addition to dozens of stories that have appeared in journals such as Fiction International, The Laurel Review, Confrontation, River Styx, and The Literary Review, and in anthologies such as 20 Over 40 and Under the Arch, her published and performed work includes a novel, The Phoenix Nest, and a stage adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fable. When not writing, she concentrates her energies on environmental issues.