The Odds: A Love Story

( 13 )

Overview

In the new novel from the author of Last Night at the Lobster, a middle-age couple goes all in for love at a Niagara Falls casino

Stewart O'Nan's thirteenth novel is another wildly original, bittersweet gem like his celebrated Last Night at the Lobster. Valentine's weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and ...

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Overview

In the new novel from the author of Last Night at the Lobster, a middle-age couple goes all in for love at a Niagara Falls casino

Stewart O'Nan's thirteenth novel is another wildly original, bittersweet gem like his celebrated Last Night at the Lobster. Valentine's weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings account and book a bridal suite at the Falls' ritziest casino for a second honeymoon. While they sightsee like tourists during the day, at night they risk it all at the roulette wheel to fix their finances-and save their marriage. A tender yet honest exploration of faith, forgiveness and last chances, The Odds is a reminder that love, like life, is always a gamble.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Stewart O’Nan seems incapable of writing a false line. Whether describing the unimaginable or the mundane, his modest sentences crystallize the lives of ordinary people…. O’Nan is an author you learn to trust, no matter what he’s writing about…. A few hours with this witty, sad, surprisingly romantic novel might be a better investment for troubled couples than a month of marriage counseling…Odds of enjoying this novel: 1 in 1.”
Carolyn Kellogg
“He brings lightness to every scene, while still making the characters tremendously real, recognizable yet fresh. He works in the micro — the novel slips in under 200 pages — writing close, with fine detail. There is a clarity to O'Nan's prose: It doesn't call attention to itself, doesn't flaunt dazzling sentences or stunning descriptions. This may undersell his work, which is delightful. There is something movie-like in it — not that this should be a movie, as his novel "Snow Angels" was — but it's movie-like in its easy immersion. Cracking open "The Odds" is like settling back to watch a film as the theater lights come down: It plays out, brightly, before your eyes.
Sherman Alexie
Praise for THE ODDS

"Stewart O'Nan once drove me too fast through Manhattan at 3am. This books feels just like that. Dangerous, domestic, sad, thrilling, slyly hilarious, and painful. It's a love song, yes, but a love song to a dying marriage. Read it, please."

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"This compact page-turner of a novel examines how much good luck a long-term marriage requires."
Tom Perrotta
"THE ODDS is a remarkable portrait of a marriage stressed to the breaking point, a husband and wife united and divided by bad luck and their own thorny history. This slender, moving book confirms O'Nan's status as one of the best writers of his generation, a novelist who can illuminate the drama and complexity of everyday life with compassion, wry humor, and unflinching honesty."
The Boston Globe
Haunting, funny, and gorgeously eloquent . . . O’Nan’s expertly drawn tension builds to a conclusion that’s as surprising and satisfying as an unexpected kiss. In the end, THE ODDS is a gorgeous fable, a stunning meditation, and a hope-filled Valentine about what is won in love, what falls away, and how truly, it is always, always worth the cost.”
The Seattle Times
O'Nan really shines…For virtually the entire book, O'Nan is in firm but understated control of his material. And the novel's conclusion — when Art and Marion, all dressed up, bet everything they've got — is thrilling.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“O'Nan is a master of that ambiguity that can never be mistaken for confusion. In cold-as-glacier-melt prose, his quotidian characters grow indelible in LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER and EMILY, ALONE and now THE ODDS.
The Denver Post
"THE ODDS is a slim volume, sparse in its language and as finely crafted as the tightest of short stories. Some use a barrage of details to make a point. O'Nan trains his eye on the one or two that, in their nakedness, reveal much. The reader cannot help but recognize the rhythms of [a] 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.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“O'Nan . . . captures the emotional machinery that binds and separates two people in love.”
The Miami Herald
“THE ODDS will strike more than a few chords for long-married baby boomers…who will appreciate its honest and raw depiction of what marriage can be like after many years…The novel is not without O’Nan’s trademark humor, subtly sprinkled throughout...THE ODDS is…delightful in its candor and moving in its perceptiveness.”
The Atlantic
“Relentlessly honest, O’Nan never averts his eyes from the unpleasant eruptions of the body or soul, nor is he shy of giving affection, admiration, and tolerance their due . . . O’Nan’s settings—the bus from Ohio, the bridal suite in the hotel, the layers of the casino, the freezing Falls, the Heart concert—are rendered with such vivid intelligence that they have the verve of the exotic.”
The New Yorker Book Bench
THE ODDS…offers a compelling window into the way that the 2008 economic collapse has affected the lives of average Americans.”
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“[THE ODDS] keeps you on the edge of your seat through the 179 pages of this brisk, pungent journey into a marriage afflicted by the 21st century.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The odds of the Fowlers reconciling should their marriage fail may be slim (1 in 20,480 that a divorced couple will remarry), but the odds that O'Nan will write winsome fiction — be it long or short-form — are forever high.”
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"This compact page-turner of a novel examines how much good luck a long-term marriage requires."
Shelf Awareness
“THE ODDS is a realistic fairy tale about the gravitational pull of an enduring relationship. In deft, knowing strokes, Stewart O'Nan exposes all the tenderness and tension, the compromises and evasions that lie at the heart of any long-term marriage…Anyone who's experienced those emotions and doesn't confess to seeing at least a cloudy reflection in the mirror O'Nan has so lovingly crafted isn't telling the truth.”
Pittsburgh City Paper
“Stewart O'Nan is a novelist of the everyday . . . THE ODDS . . . concerns people you might run into at Target . . . O'Nan packs his granular observations about domestic life into a smart, fast-paced romantic-comedy format . . . Call it Bonnie and Clyde meets the old Albert Brooks film Lost in America. . . . What's portrayed especially well, even in the farcical circumstances, is the everyday negotiations, internal and interpersonal, governing the spouses' lives: their calculations of what to say when, and how…[it’s] a funny book, too . . . O'Nan even grants his characters (and readers) that the cheap magic of a tourist trap like Niagara Falls can be magic, nonetheless.”
Ron Charles
Stewart O'Nan seems incapable of writing a false line…The Odds is another in his growing body of distinctly trim books…Once again, he's given us a story line that seems daringly sparse. Even the opening punches…immediately give way to the small, plain movements of a middle-aged couple in a hotel room. This willfully anti-dramatic structure succeeds only because O'Nan writes well enough to render the choreography of domestic life as captivating as the drama that usually keeps our attention in fiction…A few hours with this witty, sad, surprisingly romantic novel might be a better investment for troubled couples than a month of marriage counseling.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Marion and Art, on the brink of divorce and bankruptcy, head back to Niagara Falls, where they spent their honeymoon decades earlier. This compact novel unfolds over Valentine’s Day weekend, culminating with the couple’s determination to gamble what money they have left at the roulette wheel in the hotel casino. Taking the metaphor for all its worth and then some, the two risk “throwing away their savings chasing the high not of money but of sheer possibility.” At his best, O’Nan (Emily, Alone) nails the persistence of betrayal long after wrongs have actually been committed; their desperation has become as routine as ordering dinner. The kitsch of the falls is effectively rendered, though the plot eventually devolves toward cliché, perhaps inevitably in the trappings of the setting. Rooting for the couple becomes more of a challenge once the language begins to feel as predictable as the Maid of the Mist ride. Learning that “he was more comfortable with the rose as the badge of their love, being both natural and ephemeral, than the ring, which seemed binding and permanent” doesn’t so much explain Marion as reveal a dependency on symbolism that at times interrupts an otherwise tender tale of imperfection and commitment. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Their 30-year marriage stressed to the breaking point by financial troubles and infidelity, Art and Marion Fowler take one last trip together, to Niagara Falls, the site of their honeymoon, to make a desperate gamble with their remaining money and perhaps save their marriage. In this spare and engaging novel, O'Nan (Snow Angels) deftly interweaves the perspectives and memories of husband and wife, drawing a believable portrait of a long marriage, with its private jokes and rituals intermingling with half-buried resentments and miscommunications. Some incidents, particularly Marion's brief affair with a woman, could have been more fleshed out to give readers a better handle on the characters and what has kept them together. VERDICT Readers of contemporary literary fiction should enjoy the subtle dry humor and a story that gains momentum and pitches toward a satisfying, if somewhat ambiguous happy ending. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/11.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
An emotional richness permeates this short novel about a couple on the verge of ending their marriage while pondering whether they can salvage it. In recent years, O'Nan (Emily, Alone, 2011, etc.) has emerged as an accomplished chronicler of the bittersweet mundane, the everyday stories of characters who are no better or worse than their readers, but simply human, suffering through lost jobs, disintegrating families, dashed dreams, while showing a resilience in the appreciation of whatever blessings their lives afford them. Marking their 30th wedding anniversary, Art and Marion prepare for their impending divorce by taking one last trip together, a re-creation of their honeymoon at Niagara Falls. It's a splurge they can no longer afford, as they've both lost their jobs and they're about to lose their house, but Art hopes that going for broke at the casino with what little they have saved can reverse their fortunes. And though they've both had affairs that neither have been able to forget and at least one has found it hard to forgive, they still love each other. Or are comfortable with each other. Or at least used to each other. She recognizes that she has "succumbed to the inertia of middle age" while he worries that "without Marion he wouldn't know what to do or even who he was." So they spend their weekend drinking and gambling, grumbling about the tourist attractions, attending a Heart concert with a bunch of other middle-aged fans (a hilarious set piece), stumbling toward making love, complaining about uncomfortable shoes and going to the bathroom (a lot, for such a compact narrative). Each chapter title gives the odds on something to do with the novel ("Odds of a married couple making love on a given night: 1 in 5," "Odds of Heart playing ‘Crazy on You' in concert: 1 in 1"). Given the novel's subtitle, A Love Story, the odds of it not ending tragically are pretty good. A Valentine to marriage as it is actually lived in troubled times.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143122272
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 329,805
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O'Nan is the author of twelve previous novels, including Songs for the Missing, A Prayer for the Dying, and Snow Angels. In Faithful, he and Stephen King chronicled the 2004 Boston Red Sox. He was born, raised, and lives in Pittsburgh with his family.

Biography

Stewart O'Nan grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, addicted to cartoons, horror comics, Tarzan, science fiction, movies, TV, and garage punk. He studied aerospace engineering at Boston University, where he developed more rarified tastes (Camus, Coltrane, and the Beats), along with a lifelong obsession with the Boston Red Sox. After graduation, he worked as a test engineer for Grumman Aerospace in Long Island, devoting every spare moment he could find to writing. Then, with the encouragement of his wife, he enrolled in Cornell University to pursue a master's degree.

By the time O'Nan had finished graduate school, a few of his short stories had begun to attract some attention. He moved his family west and taught at the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of New Mexico. Then, in 1993, he hit pay dirt when his short story collection, In the Walled City, won the Drue Heinz Prize for Short Fiction. A year later, his first novel, Snow Angels, was awarded a Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize. Since then, he has gone on to forge a distinguished literary career. A self-described "fiction-writing machine," the multi-award-winning O'Nan averages a book a year. In 1996, Granta named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists.

Although critics try to shoehorn his fiction into the horror genre, O'Nan's writing is far too complex and nuanced to permit such blatant categorization. True, his stories are suffused with trauma and tragedy, and his characters react unpredictably to the stress of terrible events; but the violence in O'Nan's fiction owes as much to Flannery O'Connor as to Stephen King -- two authors he acknowledges as important influences.

In addition to his novels, the prolific O'Nan has written a nonfiction account of the notorious 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. He is also co-author with fellow Bo-Sox fan Stephen King of Faithful, a chronicle of the team's legendary 2004 season.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Stewart O'Nan shared some fun and fascinating facts about himself:

"Growing up, I delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to David McCullough's, Annie Dillard's and Nathaniel Philbrick's houses. The Philbricks tipped you a dime to put it in their screen door."

"The first novels I read with rapt fascination were Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan series -- coverless, bought for a dime apiece at a Cub Scout rummage sale."

"Back in the early '80s, when I'd just begun to read seriously, I met Doris Lessing at the Kenmore Square Barnes & Noble before her very first game at Fenway Park. She seemed genuinely excited, and apprehensive, as if she might be asked to play."

"The library is still my favorite place in the world."

"I'd rather be reading than doing anything else, including writing."

"I'm an obsessive collector -- coins, books, records, baseball cards."

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Coltrane
    2. Hometown:
      Avon, CT
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 4, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, PA
    1. Education:
      B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, 1983; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1992
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A brutally honest look at a marriage in crisis.

    In all my years as a reader, I’ve never read an O’Nan novel. Boy, have I been missing out. Art and Marion Fowler ditch their soon-to-be foreclosed home for Niagara Falls, hoping to recoup enough money to save their home and their marriage. The odds are against them, in more ways than one but as they rent the “bridal” suite for one last Valentine’s hurrah, one remains hopeful where the other has totally and utterly given up hope. From the very first page, it’s clear that Marion is going along with Art’s plan as a way to humor him, or perhaps…she feels obligated to give it one last shot just so she can say that she tried everything in her power to make it work. Regardless, what she is is a broken woman at the end of her rope, hoping to close this chapter so she can move on to the next stage of her life. She’s not entirely convinced that gambling can save them, but she gives it a go for Art’s sake. Art however, is the opposite. Inside, he knows that the marriage is coming to a close but he’s not ready to throw in the towel. Not quite yet. He’s optimistic to a fault but somehow, you can’t hold that against him. Jobless and wanting nothing more than to provide for his family, he sees this trip as a solution to their problems. Additionally, he has decided to ask Marion to marry him all over again. To start fresh, even if they can never go back to the life they knew so well. Since the odds of recouping what they need to save the house are slim to none, they continue to squander money by way of their maxed-out credit card, living it up until they are basically told that they no longer can. Fine dinners, champagne and visiting all of the tourist traps that looked much more appealing the first time around. It’s heartbreaking, really. But as sad and heartbreaking as so much of it was, I adored it. This story is all about second chances and when O’Nan goes into the heads of these characters, he must come out exhausted because these characters are complex characters with real worries and pressures. Ink on paper one second, living and breathing creatures the next. Amazing. I can’t compare this book to his others since this was my first experience with O’Nan, but if the character development in his other books is anything like it was here, then I will be reading more of his books in the near future.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I've never read a book by Stewart O'Nan, though I have heard goo

    I've never read a book by Stewart O'Nan, though I have heard good things about him. His latest novel, The Odds: A Love Story, tells the story of Marion and Art, a middle-aged married couple on their way to Niagara Falls.
    They are in severe financial trouble, about to lose their home to foreclosure and have a plan to hit a casino, with Art's sure-fire system to win enough money to save them.

    As the story quietly unfolds, we find that Art and Marion are planning on separating, but I wasn't clear if it was related to the finances or because Marion was unhappy. We learn that Art had an affair a long time ago, and Marion has never really forgiven him. Marion recently had an affair with a woman, but Art is unaware of that.

    Each chapter begins with a statistic, like the "odds of getting sick on vacation 1 in 9", and each statistic relates to the chapter. In this one, Marion gets food poisoning. It's a clever way to tie everything into the gambling theme.

    This is basically a two-person story, and as I was reading it, I thought it would make a good stage play. We spend much of time getting to know this couple, and the insight into each character is revealing, like this passage of Art describing himself:
    "If, as he liked to think, his greatest strength was a patient, indomitable hope, his one great shortcoming was a refusal to accept and therefore have any shot at changing his fate."
    Marion says of herself:
    "What had she done with her life? For a moment she couldn't think of anything. Become a wife and a mother. A lover, briefly, badly. Made a home, worked, saved, traveled. All with him. For him, because of him, despite him. From the start, because she was just a girl then, she'd thought they were soul mates, that it made them special, better than other couples they knew. She'd learned her lesson. She swore she'd never be fooled again, not by anyone, and yet she's fought for him as if he were hers, and then, having won, didn't know what to do with him."
    That passage just blew me away. I found the writing to be concise, and so profound. Marion and Art each take chapters sharing their thoughts and moving the story along. The overwhelming tone of the novel is sadness, with Art hoping that his gamble can make this last trip together something memorable, that he can be a hero, and they can regain the intimacy they lost.

    Marion does not appear to want to reignite their marriage, she sees this as one last reluctant fling. She is an unhappy woman, and the only time she shows any sign of joy is when they get drunk at a Heart concert, reliving her youth.

    The one nitpicky thing that bothered me about this book is the character names. Art and Marion are about the same age as me, but their names make them sound like they are 70 years old. I don't know anyone my age named Art or Marion. I wonder if the author intentionally did that?

    Their literal gambling to win enough money to save themselves is a metaphor for the gamble they are taking on their marriage. Can they win at either? Anyone who has been married may see themselves in certain parts of this book. It is an insightful look at a marriage in crisis, and the writing is so brilliant, you'll feel like you are eavesdropping on this couple.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Marion and Art Fowler are at the end of life as the knew it. Ma

    Marion and Art Fowler are at the end of life as the knew it. Married for thirty-one years, their marriage is pretty much over. Marion just can't forgive Art for cheating on her and, with their children grown and gone, she's ready to begin a life of her own. Compounding their marital problems, the Fowlers are one step away from foreclosure on their home and on the verge of bankruptcy.

    Art is still deeply in love with Marion and he has convinced her to spend Valentine's weekend in the honeymoon suite of the poshest Indian casino on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. While revisiting the local sights as they did on their honeymoon decades ago and enjoying lavish dinners together, Art has a simple sink-or-swim plan for the weekend. He has withdrawn all of their remaining money to try to win enough to get their lives back on track financially at the high stakes roulette table and at the same time, repair their marriage.

    Like LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, Stewart O'Nan's characters in THE ODDS tug at your heartstrings. In this wonderfully written and poignant tale, the author brings Art and Marion to life in a touching story of love, hope and redemption. O'Nan creates beauty in the everyday and THE ODDS is a delightful book...not to be missed! Lynn Kimmerle

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    no sample, won't purchase

    I'd love to write a review, I'd like to read the book but I won't purchase it when the sample ends at the table of contents. Give us at least part of the first chapter!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Fast read great characters an adult true to life relationship with ups and downs and lots of gray areas. If your over 35 odds of liking this book 99 to 100.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2013

    The Odds: A Love story is written by Stuart O'Nan. It takes plac

    The Odds: A Love story is written by Stuart O'Nan. It takes place in Canada's part of The Niagara Falls. It's about a man and woman who are deeply in debt. They are on the verge of getting a divorce and declaring bankruptcy. They decide to take what little money they have and go to the place they went on their honeymoon and gamble it to try to double their profit and get out of debt.

    Though this is a very well written book, it really wasn't something I was very interested in. I had to push myself to finish this book. For others, this may be a wonderful book. I'm not in any way putting it down. It just wasn't my taste. I did, however, love the statistics that was added at the beginning of every chapter. I think one of the biggest things I didn't like about this book was that it wasn't really detailed enough. They kind of left so many things to be interpreted by the reader. While I like this in some ways, I don't like it to this extent. I'm sure that other readers will love it for this though. I encourage anybody who's into this genre to read it. I'm sad to say that it wasn't my style of reading. I hope there are others who find more enjoyment out of this book than I did.

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  • Posted May 3, 2013

    Interesting concept

    The characters and premise were interesting, and I enjoyed all the details about Niagara Falls. However the story needed a bit more details about their motivations. I was a little bewildered as to why they felt they had to resort to such an extreme plan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    The highlight of this book is that it's a quick read. The chara

    The highlight of this book is that it's a quick read. The characters and storyline are not developed. Art & Marion are so unlikeable that you will not really care how the story ends.

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    Posted February 4, 2012

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