Latest Reviews: Ocean State

“Ocean State” is the story of a murder, but it wouldn’t be right to call it a mystery, because the killer’s identity is established in the very first sentence. Even as he inverts the form, veteran novelist Stewart O’Nan effectively keeps you turning the pages quickly with this tragic story of teenage love.

“Told through multiple voices, “Ocean State” examines the murder of a young girl” – StarTribune

Despite the banal surface, this novel invites us in — we want to know these people, learn about their complexities. In the end, they’re as interesting as you or I; O’Nan’s great gift is that we want to know more about every person he writes, no matter how unremarkable they seem from the outside.

“A murder in the suburbs – Ennui meets passion in O’Nan’s latest novel” – Boston Globe

In the first pages of this reversed psychological thriller, we learn that teenage Angel has killed a girl; soon there’s little question as to whom and why. (“Love.”) In flashbacks, the suspense comes from peeling back the layers in Stewart O’Nan’s immersive character studies.

“8 New Books To Read This Month” – Vanity Fair

Review of West of Sunset from USA Today; Interview in Boston Globe; 1/26/2015 7pm, Books Inc. @ Alameda, CA


By Kevin Nance , Special for USA TODAY

Is anything more poignant than genius in decline? It’s hard to imagine after reading West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s almost unbearably bittersweet portrait of the once-great novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sad yet darkly glittering final years in Hollywood.



Stewart O’Nan read everything F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, including his love letters to his wife, Zelda, for his new novel based on the writer’s last few years. “We think of Fitzgerald as a tragic writer, but he’s very ironic and wry,” he says. O’Nan was in town last week to read from his new novel, “West of Sunset.”

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

O’NAN: I’m reading “The Most of It” by the poet Mary Ruefle. This book is sort of prose poetry. She writes like Lydia Davis: skewed, small short stories. I’m a big Davis fan. I love Russell Edson, too, a prose poet guy in the ’70s, who’s kind of absurdist. I always go back to the surrealists, too. I like anyone who’s making something goofy and whacky.


Stewart will be at Books Inc. tonight in Alameda, CA!


Reviews of West of Sunset from The Boston Globe and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


‘West of Sunset’ by Stewart O’Nan

By Ted Weesner

How, in Fitzgerald’s own words, did he crack up? And why has no one dramatically gone to this fertile place before? Thankfully, in his 15th novel, “West of Sunset,” Stewart O’Nan has inserted himself into this fecund mess and rather shockingly — at least for this formerly historical-fiction-phobic reviewer — exits with a mesmerizing and haunting novel of his own.


‘West of Sunset’: Pittsburgh’s Stewart O’Nan tells a sympathetic tale of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final years in Hollywood

By Eileen Weiner

With each new novel, the prolific and protean Stewart O’Nan surprises us again. Through his seemingly limitless imagination, we have come to know, and to care about, a woman on Oklahoma’s death row with a tale to tell; the oddball crew working the final night at a failing Red Lobster in Connecticut; a paralyzed African-American teenager and his struggling community in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty; and an 80-year-old Pittsburgh widow confronting the travails of aging and loneliness.

Despite wildly different tones and approaches, the Pittsburgh writer’s books are united by his compassion for his characters and careful attention to the details that define and reveal their lives and souls.

These traits are much in evidence in the author’s latest surprise, a biographical novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last years, when he was desperately trying to halt the downward spiral of his professional and personal lives by working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood.


Lobster in A Reader’s Book of Days

From the Boston Globe:

A READER’S BOOK OF DAYS: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year

By Tom Nissley
Illustrated by Joanna Neborsky
Norton, 448 pp., $24.95

Believers in astrology will be put off by this book, because how could the zodiac really work if Thomas Mann and V. C. Andrews share a birthday (June 6)? Now, Edgar Allen Poe and Patricia Highsmith (Jan. 19) does make sense. One of those essential household objects, this book lists writers’ birthdays, death dates, and important events (such as the amputation of Arthur Rimbaud’s right leg on May 27). Even more tantalizingly, it combs through the literary landscape to highlight important fictional dates, from the Jan. 1 diary entry by Charlotte Haze in “Lolita” to Dec. 20, the date on which all of the action in Stewart O’Nan’s “Last Night at the Lobster takes place. Terrifically fun.