This post will be updated as new reviews come in.
“The Odds” is a comedy, but a rueful one that anyone who’s ever stayed up late wondering how to pay the bills or if a marriage was worth saving will recognize.
O’Nan weaves in vivid descriptions of the falls’ natural wonders and the cheesy attractions. (Art insists on touring Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, as they did on their honeymoon.) O’Nan is never condescending, ever sympathetic to his main characters.
O’Nan’s prose is agile, light and utterly unself-conscious. Very contemporary. At the same time, his superb rendering of psychological drama recalls 19th-century novelists like George Eliot. He has good fun with this story.
Released late last month, The Odds is a crisp 180 pages with plenty of humour and O’Nan’s sharp dialogue (a chapter where the couple believes they see Nancy Wilson of Heart at a local restaurant shows O’Nan’s impeccable grasp of characters). But all throughout is the ominous feeling something bad is about to happen to them, which is only natural when happiness rides on red or black at the roulette table.
Stewart O’Nan is an unfailingly smart and affecting novelist, but never more so, I think, than when he writes about the economic struggles of ordinary folks. His great 2007 novella, Last Night at the Lobster, is about the last shift at a closing seafood restaurant in a crummy New England mall. Now, O’Nan has just published a powerful new novella about the unemployed called The Odds.
What’s loveliest about this novel is its exploration of older love and the ways a marriage ebbs and flows. Art’s hips hurt, and Marion’s feet can’t bear her fancy shoes. They have episodes of queasy stomachs and not being able to handle their alcohol. There is also a hilariously wonderful Heart concert they both attend amidst a sea of middle-aged baby boomers, where they get stoned on weed and tequila, and Art begins to wonder whether he can last through it, “constrained and impatient, as if waiting to be released.’’
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Local literary heroes Jane McCafferty and Stewart O’Nan unleash love story feasts
Mr. O’Nan masterfully plumbs the inner lives of a longtime couple — shared jokes, gastrointestinal intimacies, perfunctory lovemaking that elevates with a tequila assist. With his taut, accomplished storytelling, the tension over Art’s make-or-break strategy builds to a gripping crescendo.
The Sun Break
In Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds, the Drink is Marriage on Niagara’s Rocks
I don’t want to quote too much from The Odds, by Stewart O’Nan, because it’s a small book, about 180 pages, and his style isn’t the pyrotechnic kind that, in a paragraph, leaves you wide-eyed. I’d just end up giving things away. The Los Angeles Times called him “the spokesperson of the regular person,” and you can see what they were getting at, but O’Nan’s gift is to somehow, through building up the stream of life’s matters of fact, surmount them.
The Seattle Times
‘The Odds’: spinning the wheel of marriage
The author deftly captures Art and Marion’s genuine (if mixed) emotions. These heartfelt portraits contrast sharply with those of their tacky surroundings: the cheesy tourist traps, the artificially cheerful hotel room, the casino’s weirdly clock-free ambience. There are also cannily observed scenes of the casual affection and familiarity in long-term marriages, as well as unexpected surprises, like when Marion gets wild and crazy during a Heart concert.
And what are the odds that you’ll fight with your mate on Valentine’s Day after having read “The Odds?” My answer is 1 in 100. That’s because you may have learned something from Art and Marion.
The Miami Herald
Can Art and Marion revive their marriage?
What do you do when you’re in your 50s and have been laid off, your house is about to be foreclosed on and you’re on the brink of bankruptcy and divorce? If you’re Art and Marion Fowler, the couple in Stewart O’Nan’s endearing new novel, you head for Niagara Falls and try to beat the odds.
The Columbus Dispatch
Troubled couple give marriage a final throw of the dice
The Odds gambles without flaunting how much it’s putting at stake.
Stewart O’Nan, whose fictional territory is the microscopic changes of everyday life, here enters the more colorful region of romance.
And not romance in the elegant, sophisticated sense. He tackles the cheesiest of situations — Valentine’s Day at Niagara Falls, where proposals, marriages and honeymoons are at their heights. Out of this sappy setup, he makes a subtle study of marriage, with its complicated system of rewards and risks.
The L.A. Times
In ‘The Odds: A Love Story,’ Stewart O’Nan uses a light but steady touch to provide an intimate portrait of a couple in crisis.
There is a clarity to O’Nan’s prose: It doesn’t call attention to itself, doesn’t flaunt dazzling sentences or stunning descriptions. This may undersell his work, which is delightful. There is something movie-like in it — not that this should be a movie, as his novel “Snow Angels” was — but it’s movie-like in its easy immersion. Cracking open “The Odds” is like settling back to watch a film as the theater lights come down: It plays out, brightly, before your eyes.
The Washington Post
Take a chance on ‘The Odds’
Stewart O’Nan seems incapable of writing a false line. Whether describing the unimaginable (losing one’s child) or the mundane (losing one’s appetite), his modest sentences crystallize the lives of ordinary people. His previous novel, “Emily, Alone,” described the daily outings of an 80-year-old widow in Pittsburgh. Emily’s pulse beat stronger than her story, but with all the novel’s insight and charm, that lack of action didn’t matter. O’Nan is an author you learn to trust, no matter what he’s writing about.
Stewart O’Nan’s prose is winning in ‘The Odds’
Every last page of this book made me cringe, a statement I intend as high praise, and not just because Stewart O’Nan‘s sentences sing no matter what they say.
“The Odds” is a Great Recession love story resting on O’Nan‘s conviction that the worst times reveal the truth of who and what his characters are.
The Kansas City Star
‘The Odds’: Troubled couple seeks to beat odds in a last hurrah
His stature as one our finest novelists long assured, Stewart O’Nan branched into short-form fiction four years ago with a charming tour de force on the final throes of a casual dining franchise.
It speaks volumes about O’Nan’s talent that “Last Night at the Lobster” managed to pack a full complement of unique characters into a mere 172 pages.
O’Nan’s new novella, “The Odds,” has almost the same number of pages, but its character list is much shorter. The story features Art and Marion Fowler, soon-to-be-divorced husband and wife.
Out of work and out of luck, a couple try to patch up their life together.
When O’Nan moves away from the gaudy neon tourist traps and into the heads of its frustrated couple, he captures the emotional machinery that binds and separates two people in love. Call them Midwestern rubes, but they have plenty to say that’s worth hearing.