Coincidence: A Novel

Coincidence: A Novel

3.6 17
by J. W. Ironmonger

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What determines the course of our lives? Chance . . . or destiny?

On Midsummer's Day, 1982, three-year-old Azalea Ives is found alone at a seaside fairground.

One year later, her mother's body washes up on a beach—her link to Azalea unnoticed.

On Midsummer's Day, 1992, her adoptive parents are killed in a Ugandan rebel uprising;


What determines the course of our lives? Chance . . . or destiny?

On Midsummer's Day, 1982, three-year-old Azalea Ives is found alone at a seaside fairground.

One year later, her mother's body washes up on a beach—her link to Azalea unnoticed.

On Midsummer's Day, 1992, her adoptive parents are killed in a Ugandan rebel uprising; Azalea is narrowly rescued by a figure from her past.

Terrified that she, too, will meet her fate on Midsummer's Day, Azalea approaches Thomas Post, an expert in debunking coincidences. Azalea's past, he insists, is random—but as Midsummer's Day approaches, he worries that she may bring fate upon herself.

Editorial Reviews

Christina Baker Kline
“Playful, inventive, and fast-paced, COINCIDENCE sweeps you up and carries you along. . . The droll, sharp-witted narrator spins this tale with the lightest of touches, all the way to its perfect ending. I adored this book.”
Margot Livesey
“In COINCIDENCE, J.W. Ironmonger takes the reader on an amazing journey. . . Read this brainy, delightful novel.”
Simon Van Booy
“A haunting, lyrical meditation on how fates are woven together, for better or worse.”
Kirkus Reviews
Ironmonger (The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder, 2012, etc.) spins another nimble tale set on two continents, this one exploring the impact of coincidence by following a woman whose life is saturated by it and a man who studies it for a living. The book begins with the case of Azalea Ives, found at a county fair in England, wandering alone, at age 3. The trajectory of Azalea's life turns out to be one of strange events and coincidences that begin before her birth, extend into her 30s and, she fears, may bring her life to an early end. One frame of the novel describes her ancestry on the Isle of Man, while another digs into her early years as the adopted daughter of missionaries in Uganda. A third follows the relationship that develops when she seeks the counsel of Thomas Post, a young London professor specializing in the mathematics and philosophy of coincidence, and the most current frame watches Thomas as he tries to make sense of Azalea's life with his friend and adviser in the academic community. The Isle of Man story is as wistful and charming as its setting suggests, while the sections involving Thomas Post are largely an enjoyable audit of coincidence science. But the Uganda scenes, as hinted at by the map at the beginning of the book, are the heartbeat of the novel—vivid and suspenseful even before the arrival of Joseph Kony. This is by no means a traditional thriller, but Ironmonger whips readers between frames in whirlwind fashion and is a judicious withholder of information, so the suspense stays taught throughout, and the game of connect-the-dots is always afoot. The two protagonists could be more fleshed out; Azalea herself has a touch of Manic Pixie Dream Girl about her, and Thomas is every inch the bumbling academic. Additionally, the narration can be heavy-handed at times, but this tale is not a character study—it's a feat of cleverness. Weighty topics are seamlessly woven into this fast, captivating read.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

J. W. Ironmonger was born and raised in East Africa. This is his first novel published in the United States. He lives in rural Shropshire, England, with his wife, Sue.

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Coincidence 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot spoilers revealing every detail then bragging how they got their book for free for their supposedly honest review. Bn, please do something with these longwinded, rude plot spoilers who consistently feel they have to ruin a book for other readers. Cant they be banned and their plot spoiling posts deleted?
LoveToReadJFE More than 1 year ago
Coincidence or predestination? Random happenings or . . . ? Azalea Lewis seeks out Thomas Post, “The Coincidence Man” who has spent his academic career mathematically investigating and debunking coincidence, insisting that the occurrence of events is random. When Azalea consults with him, the question of coincidence is of the greatest importance to her, for she is convinced that, because of the coincidences of her life, she will die on Midsummer’s Day. As this story moves through Azalea’s past and present, the reader learns the circumstances of her life and comes to understand why Azalea believes her experiences have not been random events. While some passages of scientific/psychological discussion aimed at explaining a particular thought or situation are interspersed with the telling of the events that have framed Azalea’s life, these bits of information do not in any way detract from the story being told. It’s an engrossing tale, well worth the reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This started out ok, interesting enough to keep me going, even some humor in there and the telling seemed to flow well though there was not much to the characters themselves, it was a story being told, then it got a bit over explained, too much detail, flitting from place to place and I finally gave up on it - I had made it to the end of page 79 :(
sharon1JT More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting, different type of book. It gets a little ponderous with detail, but well worth the time spent reading it. There are times when you really want to believe this story as fact instead of fiction.
rosiejrJS More than 1 year ago
Liked this book and will recommend it to friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chrystalangel More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book that is happy, joyous and free, this is not it. This is a detailed account of a convoluted life with many, many twists and turns. The central character is compelling and if you can follow the "time-line" you will understand the central meaning of this well written story. There are some pages that made me angry and some that made me cry. It was a great eye-opener to the struggles that still exist in Uganda and the Sudan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Confusing and depressing. Wlll not read another by this person.
StephWard More than 1 year ago
'Coincidence' is the heart-warming and thought provoking story of Azalea and her life. Looking at various aspects of Azalea's life, most of which happen on Midsummer's Day, the author paints a portrait of Azalea as a person along with the strange occurrences and happenings throughout her life. Midsummer's Day plays a crucial role in Azalea's life - is it mere coincidence or something more? That is what the author leaves the reader to decide, along with a character in the novel - known as "The Coincidence Man." What exactly determines a coincidence? Are there even such things as coincidences - or is everything destined? I found this to be a intriguing and incredibly fascinating novel. It had several layers to the story - not only on the fiction side of it, but also on the impact on the reader. The story - or rather mystery - of Azalea and her life sucked me in from the beginning. The circumstances that happen to and around her throughout her life are horrible - and they all seem to happen on a certain day each year - Midsummer's Day. Gathering all the evidence of each occurrence that happens on that date, Azalea begins to wonder if it's all mere coincidence. Or is it something more - something predetermined, like fate? Azalea, along with the reader, are left with lots of thought provoking questions and situations dealing with destiny, coincidence, and fate. I loved how the author used Azalea's amazing life story to weave not only a mystery and drama, but also questions the very fabric of that life and what we believe in. The story is told in a very fluid nature - it felt like it just effortlessly flowed and ended up being a quick read. The descriptions of the characters, settings, and plot were all detailed and allowed me to immerse myself in Azalea's life easily. Definitely recommended for fans of all types of fiction as well as those who like to get a bit more out of a book than just a great story. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
I received this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Coincidence by J. W. Ironmonger delves into the life, and the coincidences in the life, of Azalea Lewis.  In 1982, Azalea was abandoned, at the age of 3, at a fairground.  Her mother's body washes up on shore a year later, with the connection to Azalea going unnoticed. Ten years later to the day, Azalea's adoptive parents are massacred in Uganda.  Azalea believes that she will suffer the same fate, dying on the same date, and goes to Thomas Post, a professor who specializes in coincidences. I really wanted to love this book.  Coincidence debunking, Africa, tragedy, London, and narratives in different time periods sounds like a fabulous book.  The story flipped back and forth between a few different time periods and stories, but that part worked very well. What I had a difficult time with was the philosophical/scientific discussions on coincidences.  They got a little wordy and hard to follow, and took away from the storyline.  Also, Azalea and Thomas's romantic interest in each other took away from the story for me as well. Coincidence is a difficult book to describe because I really did enjoy it a lot at the beginning, but was disappointed by the lacking end. Thanks for reading,  Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She finds a nest near the back of the den and spcurls up in it. She soon falls asleep with her tailtip touching her nose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mishmash of unpleasant happenings a downer
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in. "Ahh...finally some sleep." He pushes together some moss and curls up on the bed. Half an hour later, he has yet to fall asleep and realizes that this will be yet another sleepless night. He sighs and tries to keep still as his insomnia goes into action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made her nest andcurled up in it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He makes a nest and sleeps.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
'Coincidence' is Captivating I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.              When I was 10 my parents drove me to the midnight departure of my school’s Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C. As I was chatting with my friends, my Dad started chatting with one of the bus drivers. Turns out, they knew each other from a decade before in Massachusetts. This may not seem so odd except for the fact that we were living in Florida. He’s not the only one who has had this happen, however. Ten years ago I was working at Best Buy in a Boston suburb and ran into a girl I both went to high school with and lived in the same dorm as in Florida. Not to mention the time that I was sitting in 10th grade debate class when a new girl walked in. Again, we were in Florida but were from the same Boston suburb, her Dad worked with my Aunt, and she sat behind my cousin in English class. We’ve been friends ever since.             Were these coincidences? Absolutely. Explainable? Probably. Regardless, all three instances were totally weird. It’s because I’ve had such odd coincidences happen in my life (including a dozen others I’m not mentioning) that I was drawn to Coincidence by J.W. Ironmonger. The basic premise is that the protagonist, Azalea, lives a life dictated by coincidences. But what if they were more than that? What if her life was predetermined? In an effort to find out exactly what she is up against, Azalea seeks out Thomas Post, an expert at explaining the mathematical probabilities of such occurrences. Thomas, however, is completely thrown by Azalea’s life and together they race against the clock to figure out whether Azalea’s life is predetermined or merely inundated with chance circumstances.             Set in both present day London and a 1992 remote African mission, the book will both make the reader think and teach him/her a bit about history. Written in a way that blends factual writing with the lyrical, it has a great flow and will keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed the philosophical portions behind why coincidences happen and whether they have any meaning, but I was equally riveted by the characters. Azalea is sharp-witted and firmly rooted in her beliefs, much to the dismay of the ever-practical Thomas. As their relationship unfolds and they seek to explain Azalea’s life, I was captivated by the dynamic between these two seemingly opposite individuals.             If you’ve ever experienced a strange coincidence in life, then you should pick up this book. There’s only a passing reference to religion, allowing the focus to be on chance vs. destiny rather than God vs. free will. Regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, this book will make you question whether things happen randomly or because they are predetermined. As for me, I’m undecided. - Allison @ The Book Wheel