What are the odds of a middle-aged married couple, on the brink of both bankruptcy and divorce, gambling what’s left of their life savings – and winning?
The first few chapters of Stewart O’Nan’s latest novel, The Odds – A Love Story, find Art and Marion Fowler aboard a bus headed for Niagara Falls. After nearly thirty years of marriage, they’re returning to the site of their honeymoon in a last ditch effort to salvage both their financial security and their relationship. In the aftermath of the recent economic crisis, they’ve both lost their jobs. Home foreclosure, bankruptcy, and divorce appear to be imminent. But Art has a plan.
The pair checks into the bridal suite of a ritzy resort/casino. It’s Valentine’s weekend. They can see the Falls glowing red at night from the windows of their room. They sight-see during the day and dine at expensive restaurants in the evenings. If Art’s plan to win at the roulette table doesn’t pan out, he and Marion will divorce and file for bankruptcy. What do they have to lose? Marion is basically indifferent to the whole idea of the weekend getaway. She lost interest in the marriage long ago, and secretly looks forward to being single. She only agreed to come along to humor her husband one last time – a sacrificial act of kindness. Art, on the other hand, is still very much in love with Marion, and intends to not only win at the high stakes game, but also woo back the heart of his bride.
The setting of Niagara Falls, with the constant roaring pounding waterfall, is the perfect backdrop for Marion and Art’s lives, at risk of slipping over the edge and crashing. Instead of chapter headings, O’Nan begins each chapter with a probability statement which more or less relates to the chapter theme. Many of these took me by surprise; for example, Odds of a married woman having an affair: 1 in 3. Or Odds of a U.S. citizen filing for bankruptcy: 1 in 17. Yikes! Others simply amused. Odds of seeing a shooting star: 1 in 5,800 and Odds of the sun coming up: 1 in 1.
The Odds is a quick read; only 179 pages and a story you won’t want to put down. Released in January 2012. Highly recommended. Find critically acclaimed author Stewart O’Nan on his website, http://stewart-onan.com/.