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    Lists | July 29, 2015

    Edward Carey: IMG 10 Best Books by Writer-Illustrators

    As a child who loved books I was fascinated by the illustrations just as much as the text. The same is true for me today, and I'm happy to be among... Continue »
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      Foulsham (Iremonger Series #2)

      Edward Carey 9781468309546

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The Odds


The Odds Cover

ISBN13: 9780670023165
ISBN10: 0670023167
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Tammy Dotts, February 6, 2012 (view all comments by Tammy Dotts)
Any introduction to writing or literature class will include the theory that most (if not all) books follow a pattern of escalating peaks that reach a climax before drifting off into a denouement. In a line graph, the crux of the book, regardless of the genre, would stand above everything else. The pattern of plot denotes a clear beginning, middle and end.

But what if a book chooses to disregard this tried-and-true formula? What if the book chops off the traditional beginning and end? What if the middle the book portrays would be more of a flat line in a traditional book’s graph?

If the book is The Odds by Stewart O’Nan, you’re in luck. And, under close observation, the flat line displays fractal properties of the traditional plot graph. Readers meet Art and Marion Fowler as the couple travels to Niagara Falls. A whole other novel could take place before page 1: The Fowler marriage and finances are already dissolving, with only legal steps remaining before both are wiped out, when we meet them.

The two return to the site of their honeymoon with what remains of their savings in a last-ditch attempt to regain financial solvency at the casinos. The plan is Art’s idea; Marion goes along with it because she doesn’t have a better idea. Art’s other idea is to win back Marion’s heart, to return to the passion of their younger years. Marion just wants the weekend to be over.

Like O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster, it’s easy to say not much happens in The Odds. Instead both novels offer a glimpse of a couple of almost ordinary days in the lives of ordinary people.

What other authors might treat as a peak to build tension ��" say, a bus accident ��" O’Nan uses to build character. Art wants to comfort Marion, but isn’t sure how it would be received given her constant rejections of intimacy. Marion wonders how the accident will delay their trip.

ONan tells the story from a third-person point of view that shifts perspective between Art and Marion. The transitions in perspective work seamlessly and serve to fill in some of the back story that led the couple to page 1.

While Art saw the divorce as a legal formality, a convenient shelter for whatever assets they might have left, from the beginning she’d taken the idea seriously, weighing her options and responsibilities��"plumbing, finally, her heart��"trying, unsuccessfully, to keep the ghost of Wendy Daigle out of the equation. How much easier it would be if Wendy Daigle were dead …. She’d lost her spot on the page and read the same sentence again, sighed and kneaded the bunched muscles of her neck.

“Want a neck rub?” Art offered.

“I’m just tired of sitting.” She shifted and went back to her book, ignoring him again.

These little rebuffs, he would never get used to them. Years ago he’d come to accept that no matter how saintly he was from then on, like a murderer, he would always be wrong, damned by his own hand, yet he was always surprised and hurt when she turned him down.

Art and Marion are masters of masking their reactions. Inside, they may question what the other is doing, imagine unsaid conversations and untaken actions. On the surface they remain calm, even though, and sometimes because, that calmness frustrates the other.

The Odds ends when the Fowlers’ weekend at the Falls does. What happens to them after the casino is left to the reader decide. O’Nan’s approach may not be the traditional peak-and-valley storytelling, but his quieter approach is worth spending time with.
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Brie Beazley, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Brie Beazley)
Classic Stewart O'Nan. "The Odds" is well-written (natch) and has very vividly drawn characters. You get the feeling that O'Nan really knows what it's like to be jobless, nearly bankrupt, and facing the probability of divorce. This book is heart-breaking, humane, and felt too short (in a good way!) at 192 pages. Although the "The Odds" has a publishing date of January 2012, I read a copy in December 2011 (got it at Powell's), hence it was my best book of the year. Highly recommended.
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Product Details

A Love Story
Onan, Stewart
O'Nan, Stewart
Penguin Books
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
7.5 x 5.13 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Odds Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 192 pages Viking Books - English 9780670023165 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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