Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Beating the odds

Stewart O'Nan's novel The Odds may not seem like a love story, but it is. It's about a middle-aged couple, Art and Marion Fowler, who have been married 30 years, raised a family and now are on the edge of divorce. They've lost their jobs and are about to lose their home. In desperation, they head from Cleveland to a Niagara Falls casino to wager everything they've got left on the theory that bankruptcy, if they lose it all, couldn't be much worse than their present situation.

Art was unfaithful 20 years before, something that still drives the couple apart. Marion had her own affair, but she has never confessed it. Art still loves his wife and hopes to romance her during their getaway and persuade her stay with him. Marion is hard to figure and hard to please. Everything he tries seems to fall flat. Like many a young man on a date, he thinks his chances are better when she's drunk.

As the title suggests, this story is all about odds. Each chapter begins with the odds of this or that happening, such as the odds of a band playing My Funny Valentine on Valentine's Day (1 in 1). O'Nan proposes that life itself is a game of chance. Often you lose, but sometimes you can beat the odds.

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