Synopses & Reviews
"With winning wit and compassionate, delightful prose" (Publishers Weekly), Jason Headley tells the story of a young man trapped in a small West Virginia town. Enormously likable and a habitual screw-up, Eric Mercer has settled into a sometimes raucous, underachieving life in his one-stoplight hometowna life cobbled together from his part-time activities as bartender at the American Legion, assistant mortician, and father to his beloved 5-year-old daughter, Tess. Tess seems to be the main reason smart, talented, twenty-four-year-old Eric is staying in town, though her mom, a centerfold-quality beauty, would have it otherwise. When Jill, the lost love of his life, returns to Pinely in the same week that the town goes nuts in preparation for the high school football team's Big Game, life unexpectedly shifts into high gear, and Eric must blunder his way toward enlightenmentfast. Authentic and refreshingly unpredictable, Small Town Odds is written with an acute sense of place and character reminiscent of Richard Russo.
"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. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Headley has been compared with Richard Russo, and the reasons are evident....A graceful entrance into the world of fiction." Library Journal
"[A] sweet, candid tale about finding contentment when life doesn't go as planned." Booklist
"Small Town Odds is a rich and wonderful novel aobut the most universal of human concerns how we pursue a sense of self in a world that is beyond our control. This is a brilliant debut by an important young writer." Robert Olen Butler
"The sweep of folly through a young man's life is a classic American theme, and Small Town Odds enriches that literary tradition with unexpected tenderness and decency. Jason Headley is a truly giften storyteller." Bob Shacochis
"Pinely, West Virginia, has one stoplight. It also has one funeral home, a bar, a jail, two really pretty women, and the young male hero who spends and misspends his time among all of them. Small Town Odds is a lively, wry, and moving novel that puts the author on the shelf with Tony Earley and Kent Haruf." John Casey
About the Author
Jason Headley grew up in West Virginia and moved to San Francisco in 2000, where he played in a rock band and worked as an advertising copywriter. This is his first novel.