four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
user_rating: 
0

A-The-Odds

The Story: Art and Marion Fowler, married 30 years, once had a charming house and well-paying jobs. But in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, they have maxed out their credit cards, and their home lies on the brink of foreclosure. With their last cash stowed in a gym bag, they leave Cleveland for a second honeymoon--and a second chance--at Niagara Falls's poshest casino. Art places all of his desperate hopes for financial and emotional salvation and marital reconciliation at the roulette table, but Marion, who never forgave him for his affair decades earlier, views this extravagant weekend as perhaps the couple's last hurrah. As they make good use of the bridal suite, visit the attractions, see Heart in concert, and gamble, Art and Marion must each decide if, and how, their marriage is worth saving.
Viking. 192 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780670023165

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars"Every last page of this book made me cringe, a statement I intend as high praise, and not just because Stewart O'Nan's sentences sing no matter what they say. ... In cold-as-glacier-melt prose, his quotidian characters grow indelible in Last Night at the Lobster and Emily Alone and now The Odds." John Repp

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars"The reader cannot help but recognize the rhythms of the relationship, disturbed by the pressure imposed by external forces. O'Nan makes points, but never belabors them. The result is an experience that is colored as much by the reader's experience as by this fine writer's craft." Robin Vidimos

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars"All of this could make for rather grim melodrama, but not in O'Nan's hands. He brings lightness to every scene, while still making the characters tremendously real, recognizable yet fresh." Carolyn Kellogg

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars"Rescuing themselves from bankruptcy and saving their marriage would appear to be insurmountable tasks to complete in a weekend, and whether they will succeed is the suspenseful thread that O'Nan weaves so skillfully, primarily because he gets this rocky middle-age relationship so right. ... The Odds is a fast read, delightful in its candor and moving in its perceptiveness." Amy Canfield

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars"I read The Odds over my 27th anniversary, and I defy any long-married husband to make it through these pages without feeling the bracing wind of exposure. ... A few hours with this witty, sad, surprisingly romantic novel might be a better investment for troubled couples than a month of marriage counseling." Ron Charles

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars"O'Nan's tone is almost defiantly compassionate: Richard Yates or Jonathan Franzen wouldn't send this pair to the Falls so much as over them, and John Updike would probably smirk at their Midwestern rubeness. ... When O'Nan moves away from the gaudy neon tourist traps and into the heads of its frustrated couple, he captures the emotional machinery that binds and separates two people in love." Mark Athitakis

NPR 3.5 of 5 Stars"As the couple drags through the tacky tourist attractions by day before landing at the glitzy, late-night, high-stakes roulette tables, O'Nan nimbly captures both Art and Marion's perspectives and the private jokes and simmering tensions of a long marriage. ... Occasionally, O'Nan lapses into truisms." Heller McAlpin

Critical Summary

The Odds is another quiet portrait in miniature, a finely crafted story of love--and optimism--during a dark time. Through subtle humor, spare prose, and suspense (What will happen at the roulette table? What will happen to the marriage?), O'Nan pays careful attention to the Fowlers' behavior and actions, showing how "the familiar habits of three decades of marriage have broken down, turned strange and uncertain" (Minneapolis Star Tribune). Whereas other novelists might have skewered the couple, O'Nan treats them with deep insight and compassion. A few critics cited some mundane prose and mawkishness, but overall, O'Nan successfully captures life's sheer possibilities, even when the odds seem stacked against success. But the odds of enjoying this novel? "1 in 1," concludes the Washington Post.