The Odds: A Love Story by Stuart O’Nan

The OddsThe Odds by Stuart O’Nan
Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin

Art and Marion’s almost thirty year marriage is on the brink of collapse. Neither one is currently employed, their home is on the verge of foreclosure and their savings account has dwindled down to almost nothing. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage and their financial lives, they take what little they have left in savings and head to a luxury suite at a casino in Niagara Falls in the hopes that they can win the money they need to get their life together back on track. In the process, Art and Marion must decide whether their marriage is something worth gambling on or if it, too, should be looked at as a total loss.

There’s no question that Stuart O’Nan is a truly talented writer. He took these pretty awful characters and their sad story and turned them into people I actually cared about over the course of this slim novel. Both Art and Marion have been unfaithful to one another, they both have said horrible things to the other, and there is absolutely no trust left in this marriage. And yet, somehow, I wanted them to figure things out. I wanted them to find a way to make things work between the two of them, I wanted Niagara Falls to help them fall back in love with one another, and I wanted this gamble to turn into a win. It’s strange for me that I’m saying that because when I began reading The Odds, I couldn’t have cared less about Art and Marion. But as the book went on, I found myself caring about them more and more, and eventually I got to a place where I was just hoping they would find a way to forgive each other and work things out.

I have to be honest, though, and tell you that Art and Marion are NOT likable characters. They treat each other with supreme unkindness, they have both cheated on the other, and in the beginning of the novel they have all but given up on one another. This is not a story about two people who fall back in love just because of a romantic second honeymoon. Rather, it’s a quiet story about two people who have to really work to understand the other. It’s a story about two people who have hurt one another so badly there is little hope for redemption. In any other author’s hands, I would have loathed these two people and thrown the book at the wall after the first fifty pages. But in O’Nan’s capable hands, they became people I wanted to get to know, characters I came to appreciate as the novel progressed.

I realize this book won’t be for everyone but I really came to enjoy it. By the end of the novel, I was really rooting for these two people and was so hopeful that things would turn out for them. If you like literary novels with characters that grow on you over time, pick up The Odds.


13 thoughts on “The Odds: A Love Story by Stuart O’Nan”

  1. Stewart O’Nan is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, too, and think it’s pretty remarkable an author can take you from disliking/not caring to rooting for them to succeed. Agree the book isn’t for everyone though.

    1. I have enjoyed two of his novels but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with his work. I’m definitely interested in reading more!

  2. I know that this book has been really polarizing, and I am planning on reading it to find out which camp I fall into. It seems as though a lot of people found the characters too unlikable to really enjoy the story, and I can totally get that, but I am curious as to what happens when they gamble on it all. It’s funny, when a lot of people dislike a book, it usually makes me want to read it more to find out if my feelings differ or not. Great review today!

    1. I’m excited to see what you think of this one, Heather! But don’t read it if you’re still feeling in a funk because it will just depress you. You need to get ready for these characters and this story, LOL.

  3. I think he does a really good job of depicting people in all their messy detail which makes them feel unlikeable but at times also relatable? Anyway, I liked this one as well.

  4. I was in the camp of “get these people out of my lives NOW”. I just really didn’t like them, and never found myself caring about them at all. It could have been my mood (even though I was reading this while on vacation!) but by the end, I voted for just locking the two of them up in a room. They deserved each other.

    1. Ha I totally get where you’re coming from, Sandy. I don’t know why but for some reason (again, I think it’s O’Nan’s writing) I cared about them. I wanted their marriage to succeed. But I do agree that they deserved each other!

  5. I really enjoyed this novel too. In fact, it was my introduction to O’Nan and I will certainly be back for more!!

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