Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Odds - Stewart O' Nan

Last fall I listened to the audio of my first book by Stewart O' Nan, "Emily Alone".  It didn't knock my socks off, but it was a gentle, well-written testament to aging.  I was impressed by O' Nan's ability to bring the protagonist to life right before my eyes...especially the character of an elderly woman, which is basically everything opposite of O' Nan.  


Boy this guy sure has a fan base.  If you go out and read some reviews, tell me if he hasn't been elevated to the status of rock star, or maybe even Santa Claus.  You won't hear me say this often, as I am always one to speak my mind without hesitation, but I was scared to death of reading one of his books and not liking it.  And then having to TELL you I didn't like it.  And that is pretty much what happened here...my worst fear.  But it wouldn't be right if I weren't honest.  So let me tell you about the book.


Synopsis:  To the innocent bystander, Art and Marion Fowler are your typical, middle-aged couple: they live in a Cleveland suburb, in a gorgeous old home, and have a son and a daughter who have been raised and left home.  Both however, have lost their jobs, are on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure, and whose marriage is in utter ruin.  So on Valentine's weekend, they leave for Niagara Falls, where they took their first honeymoon.  Maybe they can salvage their relationship, and at the same time, gamble every penny they have (stuffed in a duffel bag) in the casino and win big so they can remain solvent.


My thoughts:  I'm once again amazed at the author's ability to create believable, three-dimensional characters.  In just under 200 pages, O 'Nan describes Art and Marion in such detail, you know them as you would yourself.  He allows us into their minds and hearts by using a first-person point of view for both, which I think was a smart move for the story.  When a marriage is failing, there are always two sides to the story.  To get both sides, and understand the motivations and hidden agendas and baggage carried by Art and Marion was...insightful, I guess, but at the same time distressing.


And here was my biggest issue.  While this may be a portrait of the American marriage, I did not like it.  I didn't like the portrait.  I didn't like Art or Marion.  Art wanted so badly to please Marion and make it work, he was pathetic and spineless.  He was like a whipped puppy.  I understood where Marion was coming from, but she was a bitter bitch.  She was negative, and would be the last person I'd want to spend more than five minutes with (well, except for when she got stoned at the Heart concert).  Although the story ends on a note of hope, there was very little here that seemed like a love story.  In fact, every time I picked up the book I felt ill at ease, and could only read for a few pages before setting it down and looking for something else to do. 


I have heard a few people mention their disappointment with this book, but overall, the love for the story and O 'Nan is overwhelming.  So if you are a fan of O' Nan, you may love it too.  I would like to give him a third chance, but I will be very careful about which one I will choose.


2.5 out of 5 stars




21 comments:

bermudaonion said...

What's sad is I know some couples just like that. I've never read O'Nan's work but will probably try this one day.

Beth F said...

I read just your first and last paragraphs because I want to read this. Sorry it didn't quite work for you but I have joined the O'Nan fan club and can't wait to get to this. I hope I have better luck.

Anita said...

I'm not familiar with this author. It sounds kind of sad and not my type of thing. Think I'll pass. Good review.

reviewsbylola said...

I haven't read anything by O'Nan but I feel like I need to. I am sorry that this one didn't work for you. I do want to read this one though because I am often interested in introspective books on marriage, especially dysfunctional ones!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think you're right - you're either in the O'Nan fan club or not!

JoAnn said...

Don't worry, Sandy. We'll still love you even if you're not a fan of Stewart O'Nan! Although The Odds wasn't my favorite, I still enjoyed it. O'Nan's writing is amazing.

Marie said...

I've always been very lukewarm on O'Nan. His books are well crafted and I know that he's a "good" writer in terms of craft. But he's always been a little dull for me. His characters are sometimes so realistic that they lack energy or life. Or maybe it's just that I don't want to read books about life exactly how it's lived, even if I can admire his empathy and his ability to create such believeable people. This one I'll probably pass on; whether or not I'm in his fan club I can't say. He's a writer to admire for me but not one to love.

Sharon said...

I really wanted to like this book after reading all the reviews in blogland. I am from Cleveland originally and just recently took a trip to Niagara Falls. I didn't like it either. The best part for me was the odds cited at the beginning of each chapter. I had a hard time with them on the verge of losing it all and continually spending. I didn't much like either one of them. I won't be reading any more of his books.

Zibilee said...

I can see where you would be hesitant to write a negative review of this book, seeing that so many other readers love O'Nan so much, but I really appreciate your honesty. I had been thinking about buying this one, and now I know that this might not be the book I had thought it would be. I have to say also that Marie's comments were interesting, and gave me another angle on which to make my decision about this book. Very nice review today. Respectful, but totally honest.

Ti said...

I don't read O'Nan for the story, so that is probably why I liked this one so much. I read him for the characters and them alone. I am almost done with Emily Alone and once again, no much happens but I love the way he makes the character pop off the page. I didn't like the couple in The Odds either, but did I know them? Sure! I know lots of folks just like them. Sad, huh?

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you. After reading about so many people who love O' Nan, I was very disappointed when I listened The Odds. Yet, the characters angered me, and to do that there is merit to his writing.

I will try O'Nan again in the future.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I've been intrigued about this one since first seeing that gorgeous cover -- I'm a Niagara Falls nut. Like, obsessed. Sort of unhealthy. I haven't read O'Nan and am sorry you didn't like this one more -- I might still give it a chance!

Jenny said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you! I haven't written my review yet, but my issue was with the two of them. I didn't like either of them and they both irritated me. It was not a testament to love or marriage to me, LOL. I liked the writing, though, so maybe that's what some people really like about him?

Julie P. said...

I see what you're saying. I too am impressed by how well he develops characters in such a short novel, and while I didn't relate to (or even like) the characters, I still found it to be a well written story. Heartbreaking for sure.

Amy said...

I like his writing, A LOT, but I totally understand your viewpoint. And we can't all like the same stuff and that's what makes the world interesting!

Anna said...

I've never read this author, but if I do, I probably won't start with this one.

Jenners said...

I listened to this on audio because I kept seeing raves about this book but I felt much like you did. It felt slight and I couldn't believe the ending. And I agree -- I didn't fall in love with Art or Marion. What I did like was how O'Nan got all the little details and nuances right and it felt really real and lived in and that matters. I would try another one of his books but this didn't "do it" for me … though I didn't dislike it as much as you did.

Alyce said...

I am not familiar with this author's writing at all. I've written a few negative reviews that have been visited and commented on by superfans of an author, and for the most part the comments have been civil and entertaining (I will admit to laughing at a few of them because of how over-the-top fanatic they were). It's never good when you can't stand to read a book for more than a few pages at a time though.

Darlene said...

I've gone back and forth on this book. So many have loved it but then I read the description again and I back away. I'm just not sure it's for me. I think I remenber seeing a few of O'Nans books at my library. I think I'll try there before I'd buy one

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

Thanks for your honesty, Sandy. It can be tough to write such truthful words especially when the author has such a huge fan base. I do still want to read this one but now I won't go in expecting to be blown away.

Laurie C said...

I just caught up with your latest posts on Google Reader and wanted to chime in on this one, at least. My Stewart O'Nan experience is only Emily Alone on audio. I didn't even know it was a follow-up to an earlier book. I have been planning to read at least Last Night at the Lobster.