Tuesday, January 17, 2012

book review: The Odds: A Love Story by Stewart O'Nan

The basics: Art and Marion's marriage is failing. They're giving it one last-ditch effort by spending a romantic weekend in Niagara Falls, where they also plan to gamble their way back to financial solvency.

My thoughts: The Odds: A Love Story is not the kind of love story fans of Nicholas Sparks would enjoy. It's a real love story, filled with miscommunication, disappointment, blame and exhaustion. O'Nan balances the whimsy of beginning each chapter with a set of odds related to its content with the increasingly depressing vision of Art and Marion's marriage. O'Nan gradually reveals the details of both how dire their marriage and financial situation are, as well as how it got there. More importantly, however, O'Nan seamlessly uses both Art and Marion as narrators. The reader comes to understand the marriage, and it becomes clear neither Art, Marion, nor the reader truly understand it from all perspectives.

Favorite passage: "You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole—like the world, or the person you loved."

The verdict: The Odds is a quirky, fun, realistic portrayal of a modern marriage on the brink of financial ruin and divorce. Its biggest strength are the characters of Art and Marion, who are remarkably well-developed as individuals in this short novel. It's a travel novel, a character study, and a love story, but all three are firmly grounded in reality and resonate with wisdom and genuine emotion.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 192 pages
Publication date: January 19, 2012
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Odds: A Love Story from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version).

Now tell me: The Odds: A Love Story was my first Stewart O'Nan novel, but it certainly won't be my last. Which of his novels should I read next?


As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

17 comments:

  1. I think this one sounds very interesting, and am curious about why a couple would choose to try to gamble their way towards financial freedom. It sounds like the characters were really well rounded as well, so I will be looking for this one. Great review today!

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    1. It was such a unique, interesting view of a marriage. I think you'd like it!

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  2. I haven't heard much about this one, Carrie, so I was especially glad to read your review. Looks like a good one!

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    1. It's actually one I read last fall and have been surprised there hasn't been more buzz building for its release. It made an O'Nan fan out of me!

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  3. I loved this one. My review doesn't post until the 19th but I've been dying to talk about it with someone. I've not read another O'Nan book so I can't compare but I liked the rawness of it. The desperation really came through for me and seeing that I've been married for (ahem) 18 years, the stresses that brought them to that point seemed very realistic to me.

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    1. Ti, the rawness really struck me too. I thought the stress was very realistic too (from a married far fewer than 18 years perspective!) It struck me as a novel so entrenched in these economic times.

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  4. This sounds great and I love how you refer to it as a real love story. =) I haven't read anything by this author but I think I may need to change that.

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    1. Jenny, I think you'd enjoy it, and it's less than 200 pages! Plus, a realistic love story is often much more fascinating than an overly romantic one!

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  5. This book was fantastic and one of my favorites I read last year. It deals with marriage so candidly and your heart breaks for these two people on almost every page. There are some people in my life going through similarly difficult spots in their marriages/life and I'm just amazed at how spot on O'Nan gets it.

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    1. Brooke, I'm glad to hear you were a fan too! I hope it continues to build more buzz.

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  6. I don't know why but I love reading books about other people's marriage problems. That must mean there is something wrong with me! So yes, this book intrigues me. I like to think it points out for me what I can avoid.

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    1. Amused, I'm still fascinated by stories of marriage, and I think it's for much of the same reason: how alike are we from the marriage in the novel (or often, how different!)

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  7. Carrie, Glad u got the choice to enjoy this one as well. Our thoughts were similar about it.

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    1. It was a wonderful introduction to a prolific author!

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  8. I picked up Last Night at the Lobster, because I was thinking about using it for a class. I wasn't blown away, but I liked it well enough to try more O'Nan. I can't believe how prolific he is. I really liked The Odds, and I think I'm going to try Emily, Alone next.

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    1. I have both Emily, Alone and The Good Wife from the library. They both sound so interesting!

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  9. I read Last Night at the Lobster because I was thinking about assigning it, but I wasn't blown away. I still wanted to try more O'Nan though, and loved The Odds. I think I'm going to read Emily, Alone next.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!