Behind the scenes of our lives, pulling the strings for the benefit of humanity, are the people assigned as “coincidence makers,” arranging the events that need to happen in people’s lives, both on a personal and larger scale. It may be making a particular love connection by arranging that two people meet at the right time, or taking steps to help an accountant find his true work in being a poet, or ensuring that an assassin is pointed in the right path to later do society a larger good. Coincidence makers work for a hidden organization that supervises and directs their generally benevolent efforts, along with those of imaginary friends, dream weavers, luck distributors and other useful employees, endowing them with supernatural powers, while insisting on compliance with a plethora of bureaucratic rules and restrictions.
Guy, Emily, and Eric are all recent trainees at the job of coincidence makers. They’ve completed their training course, complete with instruction manuals and tests (“Create a traffic jam in which over 80% of the vehicles are the same color; the particular color is not important. The traffic jam must last for no more than twenty minutes. You may not use traffic accidents or traffic light malfunctions”). For the last three years they’ve been creating complex coincidences, slowly working their way up the ranks. But Emily is carrying a secret in her heart, one she can’t share, that will end up having major repercussions.
The Coincidence Makers was originally published in the Hebrew language in 2011 and is now, in 2018, being published in the U.S. It’s easy to understand why this novel quickly became a bestseller in Israel. Its premise is original, and its characters endearing if occasionally frustratingly flawed. On his website, Yoav Blum comments:
I like writing about realistic worlds with a twist, about being human, about fate, free will, the way we define ourselves and the isolation and friendships that define us.
Blum skillfully balances whimsy, like the elaborate planning of coincidences and the occasional quasi-scholarly chapters on the theories and rules relating to coincidence-making, with serious insights into the nature of life, love, fate and free will.
Initially my only real complaint about The Coincidence Makers was its slow beginning and extended set-up; on page 75 or so it felt like we were still in the lengthy exposition phase. Then the plot suddenly kicked into gear, a couple of key events occurred, plot pieces started to fit together, and the book just exploded into awesomeness. The Coincidence Makers has the intricate, layered approach that I love, where all of the various threads start tying together in the end, with surprises and twists that I didn’t anticipate but that make complete sense in retrospect. In fact, I reread the first third of the book a couple of days later (and then read most of the rest for good measure) and its beginning didn’t seem at all sluggish the second time through, because I could see and appreciate all the hints and plot elements being laid out that would become significant later on.
The Coincidence Makers blends mystery, fantasy, and a love story. Although it has a sentimental streak, it’s far removed from a romance novel. Though it’s early in the year, I’m confident that this will be one of my favorite novels of 2018, one I’ll reread (again) and push on my friends. Highly recommended!