My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every new release by Stewart O’Nan is a cause for celebration and The Odds is no exception. In this story of a marriage in crises, set against the recent economic downturn, each chapter satisfies as a self-contained short story. When we meet Art and Marion, they’re on a bus, headed to Niagara Falls where they plan to spend money they don’t have and literally gamble their life savings away. They’ve weathered some stresses in their union, but to what end? After twenty years of marriage, two grown children and their share of infidelity, they’ve fallen deeply out of love. The bad economy has hit them hard: they’re unemployed, behind on their mortgage, and deep in credit card debt. It’s the contemporary American Dream writ large.
The reader joins this pair as they roll the dice one last time on a long weekend to the place where they honeymooned, so many years ago. With comedy, compassion, and a spry economy of words, O’Nan relates the weekend’s events (and all their conflicting emotions) while deftly illuminating the past leading up to the present. The novella culminates in a nail-biter of an ending, drawing to mind the old adage that it’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey.