The Odds: A Love Story

If ever a couple were in need of a run of good luck it would be Art and Marion Fowler. Downsized from their middle-class jobs and facing foreclosure, they travel by bus from their Cleveland home to Niagara Falls on a snowy Valentine's Day weekend to relive their honeymoon of 30 years earlier. They're improbably committed to risking their remaining cash at the roulette wheel, "a fantastic last-ditch escape from the snares of their real life."

The Fowlers know failure guarantees both financial and marital ruin. But Art is ardent and romantic, desperate to ensure Marion is having a good time and fretting over when he'll give her the diamond ring he's brought with him. Marion, the realist of the pair, still can't shake her bitterness over Art's two-decades-old affair. Niagara Falls, decked out for the holiday weekend, is as much a character in this story as the troubled honeymooners. O'Nan evokes the surge of romantic impulses it inspires, its natural beauty wedded to kitschy attractions.

The Odds is a realistic fairy tale about the gravitational pull of an enduring relationship. In deft, knowing strokes, Stewart O'Nan exposes all the tenderness and tension, the compromises and evasions that lie at the heart of any long-term marriage. "The happiest she'd ever been was with him," Marion realizes, "and the saddest. Was that the test of true love?" Anyone who's experienced those emotions and doesn't confess to seeing at least a cloudy reflection in the mirror O'Nan has so lovingly crafted isn't telling the truth. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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