The Odds: The Buffalo News Book Club, June 2014 Selection

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Novel of couple’s critical Falls trip is Book Club June selection

A couple return to Niagara Falls in a desperate effort to save their marriage

You probably know a couple just like Art and Marion Fowler, the long-married, middle-aged pair whose complicated and unexpectedly tender story Stewart O’Nan tells in his novel “The Odds.”

You might even be just like Art and Marion Fowler.

As we meet them, they are financially battered and emotionally scarred, facing the loss of their house in Cleveland and the inevitable end of their lives together.

And yet they have the ability to take one more gamble, a desperate bet that just might save them.

Where better to throw their future on the line than a casino in Niagara Falls, Ont.?

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More Best of 2012 for The Odds

More Best of 2012 for The Odds!

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The piercingly perceptive author of “Last Night at the Lobster” and “Emily, Alone” starts this gemlike stunner in Cleveland, where middle-class Art and Marion Fowler stuff $8,000 in a gym bag, flee their foreclosing suburban home and take a bus to Niagara Falls, Canada. Art hopes for a gambling score and rekindled romance on the $249 “Valentine’s Getaway Special”; Marion wants out. This brief, of-our-times story is full of surprise. O’Nan, a Pittsburgh resident, may well be the best Midwestern novelist going.

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There is a unique pleasure in reading a writer who has been on your list for some time but has evaded capture. For me, that writer was Stewart O’Nan. I had caught references to the wonders of his writing for years and received suggestions to read this or that. But it wasn’t until I picked up his 2012 novel “The Odds” that I understood what friends and critics had been talking about.

“The Odds” is subtitled “A Love Story,” but it is the tale of a love that has gone through the wringer of betrayal and disappointment amid the financial squeeze of an economy that has driven more than a few couples into a ditch. Art and Marion Fowler’s marriage is on the brink of collapse; they’ve lost their jobs and now they’re threatened with the loss of their home. So they decide to return to Niagara Falls to revisit the tourist spot where they honeymooned. In a gym bag is all the money they have left; their goal is to turn thousands of dollars in cash into many thousands more.

Art also hopes to save their marriage, much to the dismay of Marion, who has all but checked out, bitter over a long-ago affair and disillusioned with how Art has met middle age. Touring the falls, playing the roulette wheel — with a sure-fire system to win — and seeing the band Heart all figure into Art’s hail Mary of a plan to win back his wife before it’s too late — and, perhaps, keep their home.

O’Nan writes with a stunning precision and deep reservoir of empathy for Art and Marion — the same qualities that enlivened “Last Night at the Lobster,” his novel of the closing of a Red Lobster restaurant. My advice: Don’t make the mistake I did by waiting to read O’Nan. Read him now.

Steve Mills, Tribune reporter

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The Odds: One of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2012

npr-books-logo-colorThe Odds was picked as one of Maureen Corrigan’s favorite books of 2012:

That dazed-and-confused trend kicked off in January with Stewart O’Nan’s novella, The Odds, about a middle-aged, unemployed couple about to divorce in order to protect what little assets they have left. First, though, Marion and Art Fowler book a deluxe suite at one of the honeymoon hotels in Niagara Falls and get ready to gamble their remaining cash at the hotel casino. O’Nan’s go-for-broke literary style — by turns elegant and ruefully funny — rivets readers to the fateful spin of that roulette wheel.

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The Odds Paperback & Book Tour

The paperback edition of The Odds will be out on September 25!

b&n | amazon | indiebound

The Odds Paperback Book Tour

Tuesday, October 9, 6pm
HARTFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY
Center for Contemporary Culture Auditorium
500 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
www.hplct.org

Wednesday, October 10, 7pm
PORTER SQUARE BOOKS
25 White St
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.portersquarebooks.com

Thursday, October 11, 7pm
RIVER RUN BOOKS
142 Fleet St.
Portsmouth, NH 03801
www.riverrunbookstore.com

Saturday, October 13, 4pm
BRATTLEBORO LITERARY FESTIVAL
Brattleboro, VT
Stewart O’Nan – Centre Congregational Church
brattleboroliteraryfestival.org

Monday, October 15, 12pm
METRO DETROIT BOOK & AUTHOR SOCIETY
Book Luncheon
Burton Manor
27777 Schoolcraft Rd.
Livonia, MI 48150

Tuesday, October 16, 8am
MI and OH ASSOCIATION OF COLLEGE TEACHERS CONFERENCE
Breakfast and Author Session
Marquis Room 2nd level of the hotel conference center

Tuesday, October 16, 7pm
BOOKS & COMPANY AT THE GREENE
4453 Walnut St
The Greene
Dayton, OH 45440
www.booksandco.com

Thursday, November 8
COOPER-SIEGEL COMMUNITY LIBRARY
Fox Chapel
403 Fox Chapel Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Past Dates

Saturday, September 22, 2:15pm – Keynote Speaker
Conversations and Connections Philadelphia 2012 – Conversations and Connections brings together an eclectic mix of writers and editors for an all-day conference in the heart of Philadelphia.  Stewart will be the keynote speaker at the event!

Sunday, September 23, 5pm: BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL
Saint Francis Auditorium (180 Remsen Street)

Nothing Ever Breaks But the Heart. Novels that span generations and continents to remind us to tread lightly when following the heart. Stewart O’Nan (The Odds), Gail Tsukiyama (A Hundred Flowers) and Terry McMillan (Getting to Happy) read and discuss their work. Moderated by Jeffrey Lependorf, CLMP.

5/2: Stewart O’Nan & Jane McCafferty @ CLP – Main

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 6:00 PM
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland)
4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Good friends and novelists Stewart O’Nan and Jane McCafferty appear together for Writers LIVE with their latest novels.

Stewart O’Nan, a Pittsburgher and self-proclaimed Pirates fan, is a nationally acclaimed author who has built a following all over the country for novels like Emily Alone and Last Night at the Lobster. Kirkus Reviews calls his latest novella The Odds “a valentine to marriage as it is actually lived in troubled times.”  The Odds follows the Fowlers to Niagara Falls on their second honeymoon where they bet their remaining life savings in hopes of saving everything else – even their crumbling marriage.  Stewart O’Nan is author of 14 novels, a screenplay, and two works of nonfiction. He says he got his first big break as a writer when he won the 1993 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his collection of short stories, In the Walled City.

Jane McCafferty is author of the new novel First You Try Everything, and a Professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University. Set in present-day Pittsburgh, her latest novel is about the unraveling of the marriage of Ben and Evvie Muldoone and the agonizing process of divorce. The Oprah Magazine blog, O, says that First You Try Everything is “a life-stopping novel by Jane McCafferty, a crackerjack of a writer…”. Jane McCafferty won the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for her collection of short fiction, Director of the World.

A book signing follows the program, with copies of First You Try Everything and The Odds available from the Penguin Bookshop.

For more information, contact Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures at 412-622-8866, email info@pittsburghlectures.org, or visit www.pittsburghlectures.org.

Related story at the Post-Gazette:

Authors Stewart O’Nan and Jane McCafferty tackle love and marriage

In the category of calculated risks, marriage is undoubtedly the ultimate gamble.

Art and Marion Fowler, a Cleveland couple verging on bankruptcy, roll their wedded dice one last time by returning to Niagara Falls, where they honeymooned 30 years ago. Their story unfolds in Stewart O’Nan’s 14th novel, “The Odds.”

Mr. O’Nan, who lives in Edgewood, will read from “The Odds” on Wednesday at the main Carnegie Library branch in Oakland. Joining him for the reading and a conversation will be his colleague, Carnegie Mellon University English professor Jane McCafferty. She will read from her novel “First You Try Everything,” which was published this year by HarperCollins. [See review of both books from the Jan. 29 Post-Gazette.]

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