The opening of Yoav Blum’s delightful The Coincidence Makers asks us to imagine where the beginning of a string of events begins. Where is the cause that begins all the effects that come after? For the eponymous character who manufacture the coincidences that lead to romances, innovation, inspiration, and so on, it doesn’t really matter where things begin. The object is the important thing and only a few rules govern how they get there. This might sound ruthless—and a certain amount of ruthlessness is called for—but this is a surprisingly satisfying and happy read. At least, it’s satisfying as long as you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of thinking too much about whether we have free will or not.
Guy is part of a small class of three coincidence makers. After being promoted from imaginary friend, he specializes in arranging meet-cutes for future lovers. Emily is particularly good at helping artists find their passion. Leo seems to specialize in being irritating, but he is very good at setting up coincidences of all kinds. The two meet for regular breakfasts to share their exploits and make bets. For Emily, it’s also a chance to be near the object of her affection, Guy. Unfortunately for her, Guy is still hung up on someone he miraculously met while he was still an imaginary friend. Guy and Emily are both suffering from a bit of melancholy because they, unlike their subjects, believe they can never really get together with their soulmates. I would say more about the plot, but I don’t want to ruin the book for people who might want to pick up The Coincidence Makers. This is the kind of story that is meant to dawn slowly on a reader as more and more clues are dropped.
In between chapters showing the continuing adventures of Guy and Emily as they wrestle with their calling and their limitations, we get excerpts from the coincidence makers’ final exam and reading materials that shed a bit of light on what they do and their history. I would have loved even more of these chapters because I wanted to know more about the great coincidences of history. But I understand that it would have cut the tension of the rest of the book if there were too many side trips. This is a tiny quibble, to be honest. I was completely wrapped up in learning more about Guy and Emily and what was really going on behind all the coincidences they were making. The extra bits were just gravy.
The Coincidence Makers is kind of book I finish with a chef’s kiss for the author. The various plot lines, which intrigue and tug at the heartstrings, wrap up beautifully at the end of the book, bringing us back around to the question of where things really begin and who is pulling the strings. I suppose people who want to believe in pure free will will be made uncomfortable by this novel. It’s not a cheering thought to believe that everything we do is the result of brain chemicals and other people’s actions. On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of supernatural beings tugging on the threads of fate to make the world a little bit better, one person—or one couple—at a time.