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Book Review

This Christian romance novel by Karen Kingsbury is published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

The Chance is written for adults but is read by teens. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Ellie Tucker and Nolan Cook have been best friends since second grade. As high school sweethearts, they fall in love, and Nolan plans to one day marry Ellie. Their dreams shatter when Ellie's mother, Caroline, becomes pregnant from an adulterous relationship, and Ellie's father plans to take Ellie with him when he leaves for a job in California. Nolan decides that he and Ellie should write letters to each other about their feelings for each other before Ellie moves. They do and put these letters in Nolan’s old fishing tackle box. Then they bury the box next to an oak tree in the park and promise to meet there in 11 years, on June 1 — no matter what.

After Ellie moves, Nolan doesn't hear from her again, though he tries hard to find her. His life progresses through college, and he becomes an NBA basketball star. In California, Ellie finishes high school, and then meets a soldier. She ends up becoming pregnant by him, but he spurns her when he finds out she is pregnant. He then deploys to Iraq where he dies. As a single mother, Ellie works as a hairstylist and is estranged from both her parents. She doesn't want Nolan to learn about the mistakes she's made, so she changes her last name. Nolan is unable to find her, even after hiring a private investigator.

Eleven years pass, and Nolan and Ellie each keep their commitment to meet at the old oak tree, unearth their letters and read what each wrote when they were 15. They reaffirm their love for each other and make plans to marry.

Christian Beliefs

The main characters are Christians who read their Bibles, pray often and attend worship services. The Tucker family, nevertheless, falls from grace when Caroline becomes involved in adultery and has a child that isn't her husband's. Ellie loses her faith after the move to California; later, God uses Ellie's 6-year-old daughter to remind her that He loves her and to restore her faith.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Ellie's parents, Alan and Caroline Tucker, are Christian. Alan prays frequently and reads the Bible. His career as a Marine drill instructor is his priority, and his marriage suffers because of it. He misuses Scripture to control his family. His anger at Caroline leads him to take Ellie away from her, and he cuts off all communication with Caroline, even keeping from Ellie the letters Caroline writes weekly for the next 11 years. He grows spiteful toward Caroline, yet deep down he still loves her, and he loves Ellie very much and only wants the best for his family. Yet, when 19-year-old Ellie comes home pregnant, Alan yells at her and has no compassion for her situation. His reaction effectively ends their relationship. Years later, after being estranged from his wife and daughter, he has a breakdown, recommits his life to the Lord and prays for a miraculous reconciliation with his family.

Caroline's life centers around Ellie. As Ellie matures and is busy with school activities and Nolan, Caroline doesn't know what to do with her time, and she is lonely until she takes a job as a medical receptionist. She is emotionally distant from her husband, and Caroline succumbs to the flattery of a famous country-western singer. She becomes entangled in an adulterous relationship that results in pregnancy. Caroline blames Alan's negligence for her actions. Although she is detached from her family, she faithfully writes to Ellie every week for 11 years, even when she doesn't receives a response. After her family leaves her, she does not marry the father of her second child, but raises the child as a single mother. In the process, her faith is revitalized.

As a single mother, Ellie tries to portray her child's deceased father in a positive light. Kinzie has a lot of questions about her mother's love for her father and why they didn't get married. She questions Ellie about Ellie's parents and why they never see them. Ellie often is unsure how to respond, but she generally tries not to embitter her daughter's view of her parents. Though Ellie has lost her faith, she permits Kinzie to attend church and Sunday school with a friend.

Lena Lindsey is Caroline's best friend; she rescues Caroline when Alan kicks her out. She is a solid combination of caring and frankness, speaking truth into Caroline's circumstances. She encourages Caroline to reconcile with Alan.

Nolan's dad is also his high school basketball coach. He affirms his son and lets him know that he loves him and is proud of him. He encourages him with the offer of help to find Ellie. Nolan's mother is warm and welcoming whenever Ellie visits.


Name-calling is mentioned, but the words are not written. There is no graphic violence, but there is verbal abuse, especially when Alan and Caroline fight. Alan manipulates Scripture to demean Caroline, while Ellie listens, and he kicks Caroline out of the house.


Ellie and Nolan's interactions generally consist of innocent kisses, knees touching, etc. Nolan hugs Ellie when she is distraught with the news that her mom is pregnant and that she is moving away. She notes that his hug feels different this time.

Caroline recalls Alan's patience and tenderness when they were in bed. Caroline meets the famous singer Peyton Anders at one of his concerts. He flirts with her by winking and having her onstage with him. Backstage, his actions intensify, revealing his desire for her, and they kiss. She knows she shouldn't respond, but his kisses are so passionate that they are all she can think about. The first year of their relationship is mostly phone calls. Then it progresses to a physical relationship.

Ellie has a physical relationship with a soldier, but little is mentioned about it except for the results of the relationship through her emotions and the birth of her child.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • How would you characterize Ellie's faith as a teen and young adult?
  • Does being Christian mean that you won't have big problems?
  • How would you characterize her faith by the end of the book?

  • Caroline tells Ellie, "Unforgiveness is the worst kind of sick."

  • What does that mean?
  • How does life change for Ellie after she forgives her father?
  • Tell about a time when you had difficulty forgiving someone.
  • What does the Bible say about forgiveness (Colossians 3:13)?

  • What do you notice about the importance of communication throughout The Chance?

  • How might events have been different if, for example, Ellie had received letters and phone calls from Nolan and her mother?
  • What do you risk in trying to determine what other people are thinking?
  • Have you ever jumped to wrong conclusions because you erroneously thought you knew what someone else was thinking?

  • As a teen, Ellie prays for her parents to stop fighting and to be in love again. But that doesn't happen, so she considers prayer ineffective.

  • Do you agree?
  • Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered?
  • Looking back, what might have been God's answer?

  • When C.J., the father of Ellie's child, dies in Iraq, Ellie does not go to his memorial service.

  • How is that a selfish decision?
  • Do you think his family would have liked knowing that he had a child?

  • Ellie tells her daughter that "two people can think they love each other when really it's too soon to know if love is there or not."

  • How can you determine whether a lasting love exists?
  • Is the feeling of love a valid reason to engage in premarital or extramarital sex?
  • Name two or three consequences Caroline and Ellie suffered for their wrong decisions.

  • In this case, Nolan's obsession with Ellie is met with Ellie returning his love.

  • If Ellie did not return Nolan's love, how might Nolan's obsession with Ellie have been unhealthy for him?

Additional Comments/Notes

Stealing: When a patient gives Caroline 12 Vicodin pills to discard, she keeps them in her purse in case she needs them for her own emotional pain. Alan withholds Ellie's mail from her, a felony.

Lying: Ellie sneaks out of the house with a group of friends to go to the beach while her dad watches TV.

Alcohol: Peyton Anders drinks beer and whiskey to excess, and his speech is slurred at one time. Ellie helps a homeless man by giving him money with the caveat not to buy whiskey with it. She notes that he smells of alcohol.

Suicide: Caroline momentarily ponders suicide to solve her many problems.

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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