More Reviews of The Odds, Plus a Q&A

Lots more great reviews of The Odds, plus a Q&A with the Savannah Book Festival.

The Christian Science Monitor: “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.

USA Today: 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.

The Globe and Mail: 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.

Niagara Falls Review: 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.

Q&A with the Savannah Book Festival:

DO: The central couple in your most recent novel, “The Odds,” is jobless and facing foreclosure, a scenario that no doubt rings true for many readers today. Art and Marion’s solution is to bet the little they have left at a roulette wheel – and it pays off. What’s the biggest gamble that’s paid off in your life/career?

O’Nan: No doubt, it was making the switch from aerospace engineer to writer in my late twenties.  For years I wrote stories in my basement after work, but I never thought of doing it fulltime, but my wife Trudy encouraged me to pursue it.  I can’t imagine a better job than reading and writing and talking about books.

Favorable Odds

More excellent reviews of The Odds.

The Boston Globe

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.’’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The MetroWest Daily News

 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.

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Reviews of The Odds

This post will be updated as new reviews come in.

The Christian Science Monitor

“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.

USA Today

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.

The Globe and Mail

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.

Niagara Falls Review

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.

NPR Books
Fired And Foreclosed: Unemployment Lit

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.

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Continue reading

A Trio of Emily Reviews

The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

She’s not about to go gentle into any dark night

Emily, Alone is one of those rare books in which nothing particular happens and yet just about everything seems to be going on. Stewart O’Nan’s 12th novel is a sequel of sorts to his well-regarded Wish You Were Here (2002), which dealt with the white, middle-class Maxwell clan as it tried to come to terms with the recent death of their patriarch, Henry. A decade later, Henry’s widow Emily soldiers on, surviving in quiet suburban solitude in the too-big Pittsburgh home she refuses to vacate. Her life is a progression of difficult negotiations with both the past and an outside world which is leaving her further and further behind. Should she sell Henry’s monstrous old Oldsmobile for a more practical car? What is to be done about her sister-in-law Arlene’s smoking, which is clearly killing the woman? Should she put down the family dog as he grows increasingly decrepit?

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Macleans (Canada)

This exquisite novel plumbs an interior landscape rarely explored in literature—that of a sharp 80-year-old American woman watching the contours of her quiet life grow ever narrower. Emily Maxwell, introduced in O’Nan’s Wish You Were Here (2003), is a compellingly old-fashioned character—wry, unsentimental, resourceful, self-critical and stalwart, even as her life fills with loss. Her beloved husband and best friend are dead, her family is far-flung, and her once-tight circle of country-club friends diminishes by the week. The brutalities of old age are upon her: she’s socially invisible, her body is weakening, she’s nervous in her once-genteel Pittsburgh neighbourhood.

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Barnes & Noble

The elderly widow, soldiering on alone after her husband’s death, long after her children have grown and moved away, may not be the stuff of high drama, but it contains a mother lode (so to speak) of rich material. And why not? Who better to delve into issues of mortality and values than those nearing the end who, ironically, have plenty of time on their hands for deep reflection? These women maintain rich inner lives even as their worlds contract.

Often, as in Clyde Edgerton’s hilarious Walking Across Egypt (1987) — a personal favorite — plots turn on an unexpected connection between a dowager and a troubled youngster. But in Stewart O’Nan’s Emily, Alone, a welcome follow-up to his 2002 novel, Wish You Were Here, the emphasis, as the title suggests, is Emily, toute seule, determined to uphold standards and maintain discipline even as her world erodes.

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Emily, Alone Review: Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

The author creates an elderly woman who may not have a dramatic life but is three dimensional and interesting to follow around.

Stewart O’Nan’s books are not about poverty, life’s crises, gross injustice or family drama; in fact, there’s very little drama in his works. He has become a spokesperson — in modern fiction — for the regular person, the working person, and now, the elderly. One of the most beautiful, unforgettable scenes in any novel I’ve ever read occurs in “Last Night at the Lobster,” in which O’Nan describes the manager of a mall-style restaurant switching on the lights at the start of a new day, so full of purpose and hopefulness. This is a writer who illuminates moments like that one, moments you never even noticed.

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