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The Odds: A Love Story [Kindle Edition]

Stewart O'Nan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


“Stewart O’Nan seems incapable of writing a false line. Whether describing the unimaginable (losing one’s child) or the mundane (losing one’s appetite), his modest sentences crystallize the lives of ordinary people. His previous novel, “Emily, Alone,” described the daily outings of an 80-year-old widow in Pittsburgh. Emily’s pulse beat stronger than her story, but with all the novel’s insight and charm, that lack of action didn’t matter. O’Nan is a 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.”--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“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.”?Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

“This compact page-turner of a novel examines how much good luck a long-term marriage requires…”Pam Houston, More

“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.” --John Repp, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“THE ODDS…offers a compelling window into the way that the 2008 economic collapse has affected the lives of average Americans.”--Jon Michaud, The New Yorker Book Bench

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.”--Amy Canfield, The Miami Herald

"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.”
Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

“O'Nan…captures the emotional machinery that binds and separates two people in love.”--Mark Athitakis, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] brisk, pungent journey into a marriage afflicted by the 21st century…Mr. O'Nan masterfully plumbs the inner lives of a longtime couple -- shared jokes, gastrointestinal intimacies, perfunctory lovemaking that elevates with a tequila assist. With his taut, accomplished storytelling, the tension over Art's make-or-break strategy builds to a gripping crescendo.”
--John Allison, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Stewart O’Nan’s haunting, funny, and gorgeously eloquent new novel, after the superb Emily, Alone, delves into the gamble that is marriage, and the faith we need to sustain a long-term alliance…O’Nan expertly unpeels his characters with a sure hand, revealing the not-always-steadily beating heart of their marriage, and with each chapter, we begin to know and experience their depths…What’s loveliest about this novel is its exploration of older love and the ways a marriage ebbs and flows…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."--Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe

“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.”--Steve Giegerich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“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.”
--Bill O’Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper

“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.”

Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness

THE ODDS gambles without flaunting how much it’s putting at stake…Stewart O’Nan, whose fictional territory is the microscopic changes of everyday life, here enters the more colorful region of romance… He tackles the cheesiest of situations—Valentine’s Day at Niagara Falls, where proposals, marriages and honeymoons are at their heights. Out of this sappy setup, he makes a subtle study of marriage… this particular tale, like the marriage it depicts, [is] both special and universal.”

Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

"Stewart O'Nan once drove me too fast through Manhattan at 3 a.m. This book 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."
Sherman Alexie, National Book Award-winning author of War Dances

"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."
Tom Perrotta, New York Times bestselling author of The Leftovers and Little Children

“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 Atlantic

 “[O’Nan] arrives here at a pin-sharp narrative that, importantly, retains his natural empathy for people worn nearly raw by life’s cares…How O’Nan saves his story from debilitating darkness or cringing sentimentality presents an impressive reading experience.—Booklist, Starred Review

“At his best, O’Nan (Emily, Alone) nails the persistence of betrayal long after wrongs have actually been committed…”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1418 KB
  • Print Length: 182 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00B9ZIIUY
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (January 19, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,529 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What are the Odds? January 19, 2012
The Odds: A Love Story is a short but enjoyable novel of fewer than 200 pages. It's the story of Art and Marion Fowler, a couple married nearly 30 years, whose marriage is facing tough and desperate times. Both have lost their jobs, their home in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio is at risk of being foreclosed, credit card debt has mounted, and bankruptcy seems to be the next step. The Fowler's have been stuck in a rut, and the mounting pressure has caused the couple to see divorce as a likely possibility.

In a last ditch effort to save the marriage, Art convinces his wife to take what money they have left in their savings account, and travel by bus for a Valentine's Day, for a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls. He has a plan which involves gambling their remaining savings in the casino's roulette wheel. He's calculated "the odds", and is convinced they can hit it big, hoping that they can save their marriage in the process.

The story moves back and forth in time over the couples 30 year marriage. As the couple spends their time eating, drinking, and some sight-seeing, and at a concert, the reader gets a glimpse at the tender times and troubling times of Art and Marion over the years. The author goes deep into the inner and unsaid feelings of both Art and Marion, to let the reader know what is going on in their heads, including the grudges they have harbored against each other. The things each has done and regretted, and all the many issues that lots of couples married that long may be faced to deal with at one time or another.

I loved the way the story was written. The beginning of each chapter features: "The Odds" of some event happening. For example, The Odds of a Married Couple Making Their 25th Anniversary: 1 in 6.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The stagnation of marriage January 19, 2012
Art and Marion have serious financial and marital problems. After thirty years of marriage, they are returning to Niagra Falls, not for a second honeymoon but for a final hurrah before their bankruptcy and a divorce that they hope will shelter their assets. Art and Marion are not a happy couple. Art views a minor bus accident on the way to Niagra Falls as a missed opportunity to die. Marion has perfected the art of ignoring Art. Although Art adores Marion, she has never forgiven his affair with Wendy Daigle twenty years earlier, while he never even noticed her retaliatory fling with her friend Karen.

Although they plan to divorce, Art and Marion may or may not continue seeing each other -- deciding their mutual fate seems to be one of their reasons for taking this trip. Art loves Marion and clearly wants to be with her. Marion doesn't seem to know what she wants as she vacillates between doing nothing to encourage Art and (less successfully) doing nothing to hurt him. The novel's hook is a gambling scheme that might rescue their finances and perhaps their marriage, although the scheme is, for the most part, relegated to the final pages. Throughout most of the story, Art and Marion are sightseeing or getting ready for dinner.

The narrative is like an intricate dance as Art and Marion move around each other, approach and then distance themselves, rarely saying what they are thinking, topping off thirty years of imperfect communication with a last effort to rekindle a connection that may no longer exist. If Marion is finally ready to start forgiving Art, he can't read her well enough to overcome his wariness: so many of his overtures have been rejected during her "long, bitter stretches of indifference" that he hesitates to risk another.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It opens, "The final weekend of their marriage, hounded by insolvency, and, stupidly, half secretly, in the never distant past ruled by memory, infidelity, Art and Marion Fowler fled the country." Yeah, it's a bit unwieldy, but it gives you the basics of the entire novella's plot, which is this:

After decades of marriage, and deep into middle age, Art and Marion are at the end of their rope. Both are out of work. They're about to loose the house. The marriage is shaky. The kids are out on their own, but the two of them are flat broke. So they've decided to go for broke. For their anniversary weekend, they're heading across the border at Niagara Falls where they spent their honeymoon all those years ago. They've got the Honeymoon Suite, and they're hitting the casino. They're smuggling across the last few tens of thousands in cash they have left. If they can double it, they can keep the house for a while longer. If they can't, they'll loose it all. And if so, they'll return home and get divorced to protect what very little they may be able to salvage.

The novella tells the story of what happens that weekend, but also the story of Art and Marion's lives together, their past indiscretions, and secrets or secret agendas one or the other may have. Dispersed regularly throughout the book like chapter headings are statistics:

* Odds of a U.S. tourist visiting Niagara Falls: 1 in 195
* Odds of being killed in a bus accident: 1 in 436,212
* Odds of the sun coming up: 1 in 1
* Odds of a U.S. citizen filing for bankruptcy: 1 in 17
* Odds of the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series: 1 in 25,000

These statistics were a bit like a running commentary on the action, and also on the times in which we live.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
This is the worst book I have read in a long time. Should not have wasted my time. I just kept expecting more from the story as it went along and it never happened.
Published 2 months ago by Madonna
3.0 out of 5 stars Well.........
Don't know quite where to begin.
O'Nan certainly knows how to create complex characters who are like people we all know, perhaps with a lot of aspects of ourselves. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Joyce Dugan
3.0 out of 5 stars It was a good fast read and small so good to transport
It was a good fast read and small so good to transport. Not as good and Emily or Emily Alone but okay.
Published 4 months ago by august
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
This was a depressing, poorly written book.
Published 4 months ago by Bob Harley
2.0 out of 5 stars A very cynical approach to love.
Perhaps, because I'm not a gambler, I missed the point of the story. A very cynical approach to love.
Published 5 months ago by drew carlton
3.0 out of 5 stars I found it boring
Stewart O'Nan has a niche of writing about very ordinary people. This book bored me.
Published 5 months ago by Fredburg Lady
3.0 out of 5 stars a quick read
This book was easily readable and somewhat entertaining. The chapter names were clever. I'm glad I read it but would fall short of recommending it.
Published 5 months ago by Harrison

Marion and Art have been married thirty years. They have two children, live in an older beautiful home. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pamela A. Poddany
2.0 out of 5 stars A Bomb...
Penguin Books|September 25, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-14-312227-2
"Stewart O'Nan's thirteenth novel is another wildly original, bittersweet gem like... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Louise Jolly
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortune, good night: smile once more: turn thy wheel!
How many films use the game of roulette as a device for building suspense? There's the famous scene in 'Casablanca', though it is more a device for developing Rick's character than... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, A Prayer for the Dying, Last Night at the Lobster, and Emily, Alone. Granta named him one of America's Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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