By Marilyn Baron
Note: This was reprinted from a blog I wrote for the April 22 edition of Romance Lives Forever and an earlier article in Women’s Book Reviews.
What are the odds that an author in Roswell, Georgia, would leave a review on Goodreads saying she enjoyed the novel Coincidence and was looking forward to discussing it with her neighborhood book club, and that the author, J. W. Ironmonger (John) who lives in Shropshire, England, would offer to Skype with the book club?
With the explosion of technology and social media, everyone reading books in different formats, after all is said and done, it’s still all about the book. One reader liked a book, commented on the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations and the author, all the way in England, saw the message, was generous enough to respond and give up his time to talk to a neighborhood book club in Roswell, Georgia, about his book. Despite all the advances we’ve made it’s still, thankfully, all about the book. Technology is just bringing readers closer to authors.
Our book club met at one of the members’ homes. We enjoyed a beautiful assortment of hors’ d’oeuvres and we made the call. The connection was so perfect it felt like John was in our living room when he was actually at his son’s apartment in London at 2 a.m. The picture faded out a couple of times or froze when he was in the middle of talking but we found it amazing that through the wonders of technology, we were conversing with an author across the ocean on a computer about a book.
Everyone in the book club loved Coincidence. We asked questions and John was delightful. We learned about his background and the fact that he grew up in Kenya and when he was 16 he visited a mission school very much like the one he wrote about in the book. Before he finished the novel he and his son went back to Uganda in 2011 and retraced the journey the main character made to get to the mission, visiting various locations mentioned in the book.
“Africa has changed a lot but it hasn’t,” says Ironmonger. “When you get out of the city you still see mud huts. There’s still a lot of poverty, but it’s a beautiful country.”
Ironmonger combined two ideas into one book. He had always wanted to set a story in north Uganda and he also wanted to write a story about coincidences. His main character, Thomas, who studied coincidences, meets a woman, Azalea, to whom coincidences happen and who is convinced she will die on a predetermined date. The novel explores what would transpire if they got together and had a relationship. And there are so many plot twists that the book will hold your interest from start to finish.
In the book, Ironmonger weaves in arguments about predestination vs. randomness, free will or the idea that somebody is “messing with our lives.”
“It’s easy for us to see patterns where they don’t exist,” notes Ironmonger. “The truth lies somewhere between the two.”
Ironmonger admits he does not believe in coincidences although he did when he was younger.
“Sometimes we overanalyze things that do happen,” he says. “We can’t explain everything and it’s foolish to try. The message of the book is you can spend all your life trying to solve the mysteries and none of us ever will.”
In the end, Thomas receives advice from a colleague: “Why don’t you just listen to Azalea and support her and see what the next surprise is?” Thomas has to overcome his inertia and decide if he wants to follow Azalea to Africa or lose her forever.
Ironmonger also discussed the few differences between the UK and U.S. versions of the book, which was published by HarperCollins in this country in February. The book got a new cover and an extra paragraph at the end to give us a happy ending, but it is pretty much the same as when it was published in England. This is the first publication of the book in the U.S.
Ironmonger’s new book, Not Forgetting the Whale, will be out next spring. It’s set in a village at the toe of England, accessible only by one long road in and out. The townspeople, convinced that civilization is about to collapse, want to seal off the road and the village from the outside world, and then they save a whale.
Here’s the description of Coincidence:
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.
Coincidence is available on Amazon at http://amzn.com/0062309897. To learn more about John and his books, visit http://www.amazon.com/J.-W.-Ironmonger/e/B009AKEYIU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1.
Marilyn Baron is a public relations consultant in Atlanta. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and the recipient of the GRW 2009 Chapter Service Award. She writes humorous women’s fiction, romantic thrillers/suspense, historicals and paranormal. She has won writing awards in Single Title, Suspense Romance and Paranormal/Fantasy Romance. Marilyn blogs at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales at www.petitfoursandhotamales.com. You can read more about Marilyn and her books on her Web site at www.marilynbaron.com.