“The Odds”, Valentine’s Weekend in Niagara Falls

“The Odds” by Stewart O’Nan  (2012) – 180 pages

On the verge of bankruptcy and divorce, Art Fowler makes one last desperate dashing attempt to save his economic fortunes and his marriage by taking his wife Marion to Niagara  Falls for Valentine’s weekend.   Art and Marion, in their fifties, have both lost their jobs due to the 2008 deep recession and are about to lose their house.  Their daughter is old enough to live on her own, so now it is just Art and Marion,

Art makes these grandiose plans to save his marriage.  He books the honeymoon suite, he buys an expensive ring to give to Marion to present to her at just the right moment.  Art figures that since he’ll be declaring bankruptcy in a few months anyhow, these expensive purchases won’t cost him anything.  The hotel has a casino attached, and therein lays Art’s plan to recover his economic future.  He has a method.

All of Art’s plans are wasted on Marion.  She has never forgiven Art for his affair with Wendy over twenty years ago. Marion’s resentment shows up in her every conversation with Art.  Art constantly keeps trying to rekindle their love by taking Marion to the chintzy Niagara Falls attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, but Marion ain’t buying it.   Art even takes her to a music concert by the old 70’s rock group Heart.

“The Odds” did not work for me as a novel.  Art Fowler struck me as one of those stereotypical small-brained guys who wears his heart on his sleeve like Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin., while Marion struck me as the ever sensible wife who somehow endures the buffoon.  Somehow the marriage felt to me about as chintzy as Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Stewart O’Nan is known for the detailed realism of his novels.  “Last Night at the Red Lobster” was an excellent novel which presented the details of the life of the manager of a chain restaurant.  “Emily Alone” also was a very good poignant novel about the life of an old person.  Somehow these novels made real life moving, whereas “The Odds” made real life even more mundane, at least for me anyway.  I should mention that after looking at the reviews, I found that lots of people loved “The Odds”.

It did not help that much of the story of “The Odds” revolves around gambling, another activity that doesn’t interest me at all.  I’ve been in these huge rooms in casino hotels that are filled with hundreds of slot machines, and the people there always seem to be having about as much fun as someone having three teeth extracted in a dentist office.   I’ve got to stop reading novels about subjects that don’t interest me like drug taking or gambling.  Somehow I always expect the author will make it interesting anyhow.

I’m quite sure Stewart O’Nan will write some great novels in the future, but for me “The Odds” was a miss.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Interesting review. I will definitely give this a miss in favor of O’Nan’s other work. I have countlessly made the same promise to myself to avoid novels on subjects which have only the longest of odds of engaging me. I break that promise too.

    And I agree with the slot machines/casinos thing. I have always found humans at a slot machine to seem oddly inhuman, like automatons which, given addiction, they in some sense are. It’s always a bit eerie to me.

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    • Hi Kerry,
      Yeah “The Odds” was a miss for me, but “Last Night at the Red Lobster” I found an excellent little novel. It is not unusual for me to like one novel by an author a lot better than another by the same author, but usually the distance between the two isn’t so immense.
      Gambling, I don’t like to watch other people’s hard-earned money go up in smoke.

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  2. I love Niagara Falls, and have read some good novels about it: Joyce Carol Oates’s The Falls, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, and perhaps a few others that don’t come to mind. Maybe I’d like The Odds because I’ve visited Niagara Falls on vacations. (There are a lot of tacky spots there, for sure.)

    I am, however, way behind on Stewart O’Nan’s novels, and should probably go back to some of his others.

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  3. Hi Frisbee,
    I was trying to figure out if I had read Oates’ “The Falls”, but came to the conclusion I hadn’t. I keep thinking about Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy” where the climactic scene occurs on a lake in western New York. That is one of my all-time favorites. My favorite Oates besides her short stories is probably “You Must Remember This” or “Marya: A Life”. But she has so many.

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  4. Hello my loved one! I want to say that this post is awesome, nice written and come with almost all vital infos.
    I would like to see extra posts like this .

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  5. Hi ra regeln, my love! I hope to fulfill your desires in future posts here in Tony’s Book World.

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