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Small Town Odds Hardcover – October 7, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; First Edition edition (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811845362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811845366
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,311,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Headley's offbeat, bighearted first novel paints a delightful portrait of smalltown life, as experienced by 24-year-old Eric Mercer, a sardonically charming underachiever. Eric lives and works in tiny Pinely, W.Va., where drama means betting on the annual (and futile) efforts of the high school football team to beat archrival Cedarsville. The bright spot in Mercer's life is his precocious five-year-old daughter, Tess, a happy accident from a tryst with the beautiful Gina Stevens, whom Mercer and his pals pined for throughout adolescence. Headley intercuts Mercer's present-day activities—drinking and fighting in bars, male-bonding with dim-bulb best friend Deke, handymanning at the funeral home—with his teenage antics of drinking in the woods, male-bonding with Deke and loving his girl, Jill Dupree. Bringing past and present together is the death of Jill's father, which forces Mercer to finally face his beloved Jill, back in town after six years, and come to terms with Gina, whose one night of companionship he paid for in the loss of both his college dreams and Jill's love. Headley makes up for the slight plot with his winning protagonist, whose gift for avoidance is as profound as his flair for understated humor. "Slacker grows up" is a familiar trope, but Headley's winning wit and his compassionate, delightful prose mark him as a bright new talent.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A one-night stand foils a high-school football star's future in this astute debut about life in a small town. New father Eric Mercer has abandoned plans to attend Brown, remaining in tiny Pinely, West Virginia, to care for his infant daughter, Tess (he shares custody with her gorgeous mother, Gina). He works an unusual pair of part-time jobs-- funeral home assistant and bartender at the local pub--and predicts the outcome of Pinely's annual homecoming game with Kreskinesque aplomb. When his former high-school sweetheart, Jill, returns from law school for her father's funeral, Eric is haunted by thoughts of what might have been. West Virginia-born Headley conjures up a memorable cast of characters: mild-mannered mortician Wilson Tremble, who has the dubious assignment of embalming those he has known; Eric's best friend, Deke, who's knee-deep in duty at the local sewage plant; and wild-eyed Coach Gleason, desperate to redeem a losing football season with one big win. Despite its occasionally clunky prose, this is a sweet, candid tale about finding contentment when life doesn't go as planned. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Great dialogue and characters.
M. White
After purchasing the book and reading it again, I am delighted.
Robert E. Patterson
It's enough to shed a tear or two during this book.
Nurse Claudia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marliss Healy Barczak on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books you just can't put down. I was taken back to my small hometown and loved the images that the book brought to life. This all too often fact is that those high school heroes have a difficult time transitioning into "real life", what ever that is. Look out Pat Conroy, Jason Headley has left his mark and I'm anxiously awaiting ro learn more of "Eric's" life with Tess.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on July 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twenty-four-year-old Eric Mercer is a good guy, but he copes with the disappointments of a life that hasn't quite gone according to plan by drinking too much. Weekdays find him working two jobs--assisting alternately at a bar and a funeral home--and sharing in the task of raising his five-year-old daughter, who lives full-time with her mother. Weekends he is more often than not drunk and belligerent to the point of exciting police attention. Jason Headley's debut novel follows Eric's life in the present, a chapter a day, through one unusually eventful week, from a Sunday morning hangover endured in the local jail to the following Saturday, when everything--and nothing--has changed. The seven chapters devoted to Eric's present are interspersed with chapters detailing slices from his past: his liberation of a Playboy Magazine from someone's stolen stash when he was twelve; the big game against his town's arch-rivals that Eric won more or less single-handedly during his senior year; the birth of his daughter. Gradually the pieces of Eric's life, related out of sequence, recombine to explain the mystery of his character: how a top student, a hero on the gridiron, a man whose innate goodness is plain to see--despite the darker side that reveals itself when he drinks--how such a man came only seven years after his high school triumphs to be squandering his life in a kind of hopeless holding pattern.

Jason Headley's Small Town Odds is an elegant, gorgeously written novel. And it is well plotted, the various elements of Eric's quiet drama lining up as they are meant to and leading inevitably to the book's denouement, but not in such a way that one notices mid-read what the author is doing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Julie Lowe on February 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite having grown up in San Diego, I found myself relating to Eric, the protagonist, from page one. If you have ever wondered about the "one that got away"...or if you are that "one"...if you've ever faced a reunion that filled you with dread...if the plans you made for your life in high school are vastly different from the life you now lead...if you've ever sacrificed your dreams...or if you just enjoy an funny, warm, insightful book that leaves you wanting more and sad when it's over, then this is the novel for you. "Small Town Odds" is set in Virginia, but the life experiences portrayed (and very humorously so) are easily translatable no matter where you come from. Told in chapters that alternate from Eric's childhood to present-day adulthood, the bittersweet transitions of his life are both heartbreaking and, strangely, somewhat inspiring.

I've long felt that the highest praise you can pay a book is to not only recommend it to friend, but also purchase an additional copy as a gift. I've done both and I hope other readers will as well. In a time when only tired thrillers and sappy novels about dating seem to get read, it's refreshing to find a book of this caliber and one so deserving of an audience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on July 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One type of archetypical modern American novel goes something like this: A male in his twenties, who excelled in sports in high school (usually basketball or football) but who has a more intellectual and/or sensitive side as well, finds himself stuck in the podunk town he grew up in, for one reason or another. Either a girlfriend or a boyhood pal, who has escaped from the town, comes back to visit, which only makes the itch of leaving the town worse. In "Small Town Odds," Eric Mercer, former football star, headed to Brown University before making a mistake which bounds him to his boyhood town and friends, has two dead end jobs, plus a spunky five year old daughter whom he loves more than anybody in the world, but sometimes wishes had never been born. A wrench is thrown into his life when his former high-school girlfriend, Jill, returns from law school for her father's funeral.

"Small Town Odds," is Jason Headley's debut, and, overall, is quite charming and readable. Headley has a nice way of describing little scenes between Eric and others. He's not quite as good in generating plot. Also, as I continued to read about Eric's trials and tribulations, I couldn't help but think that his main problem, by far, was his alcoholism. Headley seems to suggest that all Eric has to do is make peace with himself, which would make his drinking problem go away, but I really think that's naive on the author's part. How can we believe Eric can be a truly good father to his daughter (who lives with her mother), if he routinely gets drunk and into brawls on many a night.

The book has an interesting format (which I've seen before). The story takes place over the course of a week, with the days divided into chapters.
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