Regarding the murder that lies at the heart of “Ocean State,” the new Stewart O’Nan novel, the “whodunit” aspect lasts exactly 9 words into the book.
The first sentence of a story that takes place predominantly in Ashaway, Rhode Island, in 2009, reads: “When I was in eighth grade, my sister helped kill another girl.”
It’s a hell of an authorial gamble, and that O’Nan did so suggests he relished the challenge to shoulder significant weight in terms of developing characters and sustaining tension throughout the book after that opening detonation.
To that end, “Ocean State” isn’t a typical thriller — if indeed it IS one. Two high school girls are infatuated with the same boy, a wealthy senior named Myles who, both women know (on some level), will graduate and head off to an elite college without a glance back. He casually and deceptively ping pongs between his beautiful longtime girlfriend Angel and relative newcomer Birdy, who has her own boyfriend but is willing to leave him for even a remote shot at Myles.
O’Nan, a New York Times bestselling writer whose other novels include “Last Night at the Lobster,” “City of Secrets,” “Henry, Himself,” “The Good Wife” and “The Night Country,” will read from and discuss “Ocean State” Thursday in Westerly’s Savoy Bookshop & Cafe.https://www.theday.com/article/20220405/ENT02/220409761
Check out the latest episode of The Constant Reader Podcast, where Stewart is interviewed by the host Richard Sheppard!
Stewart O’Nan’s new book, Ocean State, has recently been released in the United States to wide acclaim. However, today we are going to look at one of his earlier books – 2001’s The Speed Queen. In a change from our usual format, this isn’t a book or an adaptation of a Stephen King text, but instead a novel that uses Stephen King as a character. King is the (unnamed but highly guessable) recipient of the last testament of Marjorie Standiford, mother, daughter, drug addict, sex addict, speed freak and apparent killer. On death row, who else but Stephen King would listen to her side of the love triangle that put her on a collision course with capital punishment?
From Riverstone Books:
Best-selling author Jennifer Haigh will join Pittsburgh’s own Stewart O’Nan in a conversation on writing, story-telling, and fiction that moves us.
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Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short story collection News from Heaven and six bestselling and critically acclaimed novels, including Heat and Light, Faith, and Mrs. Kimble. Her books have won both the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for work by a New England writer. Her short fiction has been published widely, in The Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and many other places. She lives in New England.
Stewart O’Nan is a native Pittsburgher and an Allderdice grad (Go Dragons!). His novels include Snow Angels, set in Butler, Everyday People, in East Liberty, and Emily, Alone and Henry, Himself, in Highland Park.
From Boston University’s alumni magazine:
When author Stewart O’Nan introduced readers to his fictional Maxwell clan in 2002’s Wish You Were Here, the family patriarch, Henry Maxwell, had recently died. In that novel and again in 2011’s Emily, Alone, readers caught only glimpses of Henry in the memories of his surviving family members. In O’Nan’s new novel, Henry, Himself (Viking, 2019), Henry finally gets his due.
“The book is about revealing who he actually is,” says O’Nan (ENG’83). “Not what other people say he is, but the way he feels and thinks.”
O’Nan hadn’t expected to return to the Maxwells. The author of 18 novels, he has tackled vastly different subjects and settings in each of his books: fast food shift workers in Last Night at the Lobster and the last days of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in West of Sunset. When he started Wish You Were Here, O’Nan says, he intended it to be about Henry’s recently widowed wife, Emily. But he found the other characters—Henry’s sister, Arlene, his children, Kenny and Margaret, and his grandchildren—vying for his attention. Nine years later, in Emily, Alone, he chronicled Emily’s life as a widow. But there was something about Henry that kept nagging at him. He decided it was time to go back and see what he could discover about him.
From Knock and Know All:
At fifty-eight years young, Stewart O’Nan has seen seventeen of his works of fiction published along with two non-fiction books, one of which is Faithful [with Stephen King] a best-selling bleachers-eye-view of the first championship season for the Boston Red Sox since Babe Ruth was traded. All of this since he, with the full support of his saintly wife, Trudy, abandoned his career as an Aerospace engineer to earn his MFA, ultimately publishing his first collection of short stories In The Walled City [Drew Heinz Literary Prize] in 1993.