The Odds: A Love Story by Stewart O’Nan
Published by: Penguin Group
Published on: January 19, 2012
Page Count: 192
My Reading Format: eGalley requested from NetGalley
Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook
Art Fowler, a middle aged man, has lost his job and his life is falling apart. He and his wife Marion are on both the verge of foreclosure and divorce. In a last ditch effort to save both their marriage and their home, they cash out all of their money and head to Niagara Falls with the hopes of doubling their money in the casino. Art plans the trip and sweats every single detail. Marion is simply going along for one last ride before divorcing. Together they spend Valentine’s Day weekend trying to make up for a marriage full of mistakes and regret.
There is so much to like about The Odds. Each section of the novel begins with different statistical odd that sets the mood for the section to come. This both kept the title close in mind and brought focus to what was to come for Art and Marion. There was also an incredible scene at a Heart concert full of middle aged drunkenness and drug use. I defy any reader familiar with Heart to leave this book without having at least one of their songs playing in your head (and there’s “Baracuda” again). Best of all was simply the way in which the story of this Valentine’s Day weekend in Niagara Falls was told. The weekend develops in sections alternately narrated by Art and Marion. There is always two sides to every marriage and this narrative decision made me feel as though I knew the couple well. As Art made his plans, I was anticipating Marion’s reaction, feeling sorry for them both. There isn’t another way I could have felt more invested in the story.
Last Night at the Lobster remains my favorite O’Nan novel. It may always be because it was my first. Unlike Songs for the Missing, The Odds evoked the same emotion. It left me amazed that I would find a story about a common occurrence and feel as though the outcome very much was about me. The Odds is classic O’Nan. Within an intimate situation fraught with the stress of imminent loss, he shines a light on a small spot on the map and makes it feel universal. The more O’Nan I read, the more I seriously consider making appreciating his work a requirement for friendship.