Synopses & Reviews
In a moving and richly evocative novel about the remarkable capacity of the human spirit, Alice Adams brings readers into the beautiful community of San Sebastian, California, where a group of dear old friends have shared their lives for many wonderful, difficult years. It has taken writer Dudley Venable and her husband Sam thirty years to perfect their once-tumultuous marriage, but now they've almost got it right...lovely Celeste Timberlake, recently widowed, has found herself in the midst of a destructive new relationship...Edward Crane is desperately trying to hold on to his much-younger lover, Freddy Fuentes...and the group's eccentric, Polly Blake, shares everything but her own dark secrets. Together they make up a circle of deeply devoted friends who have weathered life together -- and discovered the resilience of the heart, the power of friendship, and the wonder of second chances.
The richest, most satisfying novel that Adams has yet produced....
The New York Times Book Review
A touching, subtle, truth-filled book....
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
An ambitious, wise, brilliantly executed novel....Alice Adams belongs the company of a very smallgroup of contemporary novelists who seem to know everything worth knowing about human beings.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Haunting and striking...Second Chances has Alice Adams traversing familiar terrain, the world of relationships and friendships, the intricacies of longtime companions and lovers.
About the Author
Alice Adams, born in Virginia and educated at Radcliffe College, is the author of ten highly praised novels. Her short stories have appeared in twenty-two O. Henry Awards collections and several volumes of Best American Short Stories.
She has been the recipient of an Academy and Institute Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ms. Adams' other novels include Superior Women,
a New York Times
bestseller, Medicine Men, Caroline's Daughters,
and Almost Perfect,
a New York Times
Notable Book, all published by Washington Square Press. She lives in San Francisco.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
- Dudley and Edward are described as best friends. Is it possible for a man and woman to be each other's "best friend?" Does the possibility of that sort of friendship become more likely as men and women age?
- Second Chances is obviously written in the early 1980s. Could the story also be a current one?
- Although Edward and Freddy are very much a couple, they have not been intimate for a number of years. Discuss the meaning of "intimacy" within the context of a non-sexual relationship and a sexual one.
- Celeste's friends immediately see Bill as a threat to their group. Is their concern for Celeste or for themselves?
- Polly's affair with Charles, although thought by the two participants to be a secret, is in fact, known by Celeste. How is Celeste's friendship with Polly reflective of that knowledge?
- Sara is a catalyst for most of the action in Second Chances. Discuss a possible scenario for the characters had she not come to California.
- Sara's re-exploration of her relationship with Alex mirrors both Dudley and Celeste's re-awakening after the deaths of their husbands. Discuss the differences and similarities between the three women.
- Illness is a central theme in Second Chances. Is Polly's recovery from cancer and Emma's death from it ironic or merely realistic?
- Mexico is a favored jumping-off point for many of the characters -- Freddy, Sara, Alex. Did the author need to move these characters away from the setting of the novel for action to take place? Discuss the theme of place within the novel.
- Is Bill Priest's interest in Celeste merely a way to get to Sara? How is his fanatic pursuit of both Celeste and Sara mirrored in the two women?
- Freddy's emergence as a gay activist bothers Edward mainly because it, in a sense, "outs" him. Discuss the gay community's response to AIDS as a political force.
- Polly's affair with Victor is a hidden one, as both are bound by class strictures not to be seen breaking out of those castes. Does class matter as much today?