"Why are people so committed in this battle against fellow Americans?" While that's an early question posed in Second Chances, it's also the crux of a story about strife and struggle in the life of Nichole. She is ready to graduate from high school when friction over racial issues brings livid parents into a town meeting to display a generalized prejudice and fear of threats to the educational and social system. It quickly becomes evident that undercurrents of prejudice are directed at her family.
After painting a simple portrait of Nichole and her kin, the second chapter jumps ahead a year and introduces Richard, a married attorney who has moved from courtrooms to mediating business legal conflicts. His decision to move away from his role as a public defender into situations less dependent on an uncertain legal system hasn't, unfortunately, lead to peace. Nichole has applied to work as an intern in his office and her race is, in this different situation, a benefit because of Richard's desire to help deserving minorities by giving them professional opportunities.
These two very different lives change drastically, and suddenly their focuses and carefully-built stabilities are gone. Nichole is unexpectedly saddled with family responsibilities that will challenge her goals, while Richard faces a series of crises that come to include Nichole primarily because she's the most brilliant intern he's ever had, and her changing life could threaten both her future and his choices in ways neither could imagine.
Entwined decisions, consequences which ripple out from their initial influences and circles of family and friends, and the harsh lives of some of the kids Richard encounters all become part of a bigger picture in a thought-provoking read about what constitutes success and how failure can thwart all positive achievements.
The various protagonists are consistently clear about their motivations, influences, and lives. Readers thus receive a healthy dose of social insight throughout the story line.
It should be noted that the insights on educational system pressures, structure, and choices are particularly well done. Lincoln Cole's approach (of having events move back and forth in time) could have proved confusing; but plainly marked chapter headings place these timelines in clear perspective and the recurring theme of what constitutes a 'second chance' (and when such is solicited or given) unites the various protagonists' perspectives and stories.
The result is a vivid saga of racial and social situations that's highly recommended for readers seeking a story that revolves around changing hearts and minds and positive character growth.