I love Stewart O'Nan. Why isn't he as well known as, say, Jonathan Franzen? O'Nan deserves it. His latest is no exception. The Odds is the (brief) story of Art and Marian Fowler, married 30 years, and things aren't going well. There have been affairs, both have lost their jobs, they're at risk to lose their home, and in one last, wild attempt to reverse their fortunes and save their marriage, they return to the site of their honeymoon--Niagara Falls. There they hope to use what cash they have left to win big--and Art hopes to win back Marian, who's inclined to let the marriage die.
That's it. A weekend on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. A middle-aged couple, most likely invisible to the people around them, carrying the proverbial baggage. Flawed people, a mix of likable and not (like most real people), struggling to determine what's the right thing to do and the right path to choose.
One of the things O'Nan does so well is to shine a spotlight on a little-explored community or corner of the world, and one of the more mundane. Just like he did in Last Night at the Lobster, a short bittersweet book about the staff at a Red Lobster that's about to close for good, O'Nan brings some humanity into a place many would sneer at, and gives it a more wistful reality, even if it's still kitschy in places and downright trashy in others. (I should confess to having a soft spot in my heart for kitschy, tacky places; I always loved our family trips to the Wisconsin Dells.) In literary terms, not many readers view Niagara Falls (or Red Lobster) as a setting for a serious literary work, but O'Nan proves them wrong. Any setting can be appropriate in the right hands.
I suppose now I'll have to wait several months for the next O'Nan book. I've already read and loved Emily, Alone, Wish You Were Here, The Night Country, Songs for the Missing, and A Prayer for the Dying. Hmmm...but I haven't read The Good Wife...