After 30 years of marriage, the middle-class couple that is the subject of Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds: A Love Story (Viking, 179 pages) has little to show for the life they have made together. Art and Marion Fowler are among the losers in the “whole new economy” of the Obama years. Both have lost their jobs—she in health care, he in insurance. During the housing bubble, they took out a second mortgage, but now they can’t make the payments and they can’t sell their house: It has been on the market for more than a year without a nibble. “They would lose it, had already lost it, honestly,” O’Nan writes. “The question was, how much would it cost them?”
On their last weekend together before filing for divorce, they head to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, where they can gamble their last remaining dollars at European roulette. Art is “on a mission to recapture, by one dashing, reckless gesture, everything they’d lost.” Marion just wants to get through the weekend and return home to Cleveland to file the paperwork. She is not in love with her husband anymore. The way O’Nan tells it, she is not even particularly fond of him. Although Art blames himself for their financial reversals (“his latest failure seemed an indictment of him, the timid underachiever”), Marion assumes that he blames the world out of “a sense of entitlement and a selective paranoia.” Art must lobby Marion for sex; she finds him too eager, too needy. After all these years, he has never got used to her rebuffs. She tells him to “stop with the poo-poo face.” He gazes apprecia-tively at her early-morning nudity or evening-wear décolletage. She shakes her head: “His timing had always been terrible.” She asks him to stop staring.
About the Author
D.G. Myers, literary historian at the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at Ohio State University, writes our fiction chronicle and is the author of the Literary Commentary blog.