Stewart O’Nan is one of my favourite writers, hands down. He is the author of some seventeen books, both fiction and non. I haven’t read everything that he’s written, though I’m sure that I’ll get there some day, but I have really enjoyed everything by him that I’ve read. I don’t like to make grand claims, but I genuinely feel that O’Nan is one of the greatest American writers working right now. The depth of his work never ceases to amaze me, regardless of the subject matter (which varies greatly from book to book).
As you well know, when you’re a big fan of someone’s writing you can set yourself up for disappointment. The expectations that you place on the author coupled with the eager anticipation of a new book can cause you to over-hype it up in your head. I can assure you that such was not the case with Stewart O’Nan’s newest novel The Odds: A Love Story.
The story follows a middle aged couple who, after over-reaching financially for most of their lives, find their situation become desperate when they each lose their job. Left with few options, Art and Marion Fowler decide to return to Niagara Falls, where they honeymooned some thirty years before, and let the odds decide their fate. They take all the money that they have left and decide that the roulette wheel will determine how the rest of their lives play out. Will they return home ready to rebuild their finances with their winnings and repair their strained marriage, or file for bankruptcy and go their separate ways?
The Odds made me run the gamut of emotions. With each chapter I would flip-flop, back and forth, about how I wanted the book to play out. As I was reading, I was acutely aware that regardless of how I felt things were going for Art and Marion, or how I hoped things would play out for them, the odds were just about 50/50. It’s a really great concept, that gives the author room to play — very deux ex machina — and caused much anxiety in this reader.
Along with a great concept, the way that O’Nan crafted The Odds is absolutely brilliant. As I was reading, I found myself going back and forth about which outcome I wanted for the Fowlers. One chapter I was routing for them to stay together, and the next for them to split up and go their sparate ways. Back and forth, back and forth, split up, stay together, split up, stay together. It wasn’t until I had finished reading that I realized that the book simulated the feeling of watching a roulette ball jump from black to red, black to red, black to red. Like I said, brilliant!
I mentioned already that I think that Stewart O’Nan is one of the greatest American writers working today, and that was not hyperbole (despite the fact that I have been known to exaggerate from time to time). So far, I’ve found every book that I’ve read by O’Nan not only worth the read, but worth owning and reading again and again. The Odds is no different. It deserves a place on your bookshelf.
The Odds: A Love Story
Written by: Stewart O’Nan
Published by: Viking
Buy it at Indigo.ca
Buy it at Amazon.ca
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Check it out on Goodreads
Goes well with: A Gin Martini on the Rocks
2 Ounces of Gin
Coat a chilled martini glass with dry vermouth — toss out any excess that’s left in the glass and then fill the glass with ice. Gently swirl the gin in a shaker filled with ice, then strain into the glass. Garnish with an olive!