Friday, April 6, 2012

The Odds

The Odds: a love story by Stewart O'Nan (2012)

Art and Marion are unemployed, broke, and planning to divorce. They decide to take one last weekend and go to Niagara Falls and gamble with the last money they have. At this point in their desperation, it's just as good as any other plan. Art hopes to convince Marion not to leave him, though their marriage has been sullied by his long-ago, but still fresh, infidelity. 

I don't know how Stewart O'Nan is able to cram so much story into such a small book without making it dense. This was easy and quick to read and painted a detailed picture of Art and Marion's life together. It was vaguely depressing in that way that books about marriage are, their relationship comfortable in many ways but both partners harboring resentment, guilt, and other negative feelings they can't seem to get rid of. It felt very stifling to me as I was reading it, and I didn't know whether or not I wanted their marriage to survive. Neither outcome seemed especially happy.

This may be the most important weekend they have together, and anything that goes not quite right seems like a bad omen. In true O'Nan style everything is chronicled in great detail so we see even the smallest missteps or frustrations. This is the real pleasure of reading his novels; getting inside the characters' lives so fully that they are not only real to you, but as familiar as if you've known them forever. 

While this was not my favorite of his novels (that distinction still belongs to Last Night at the Lobster) it was still a pleasure to read his writing, and at only 179 pages the small investment in time is well worth the return in enjoyment.

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