by Stephen Markley
My rating: 3 stars
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 21, 2018)
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Mystery
Print Length: 496 pages
The debut of a major talent; a lyrical and emotional novel set in an archetypal small town in northeastern Ohio—a region ravaged by the Great Recession, an opioid crisis, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—depicting one feverish, fateful summer night in 2013 when four former classmates converge on their hometown, each with a mission, all haunted by the ghosts of their shared histories.
Since the turn of the century, a generation has come of age knowing only war, recession, political gridlock, racial hostility, and a simmering fear of environmental calamity. In the country’s forgotten pockets, where industry long ago fled, where foreclosures, Walmarts, and opiates riddle the land, death rates for rural whites have skyrocketed, fueled by suicide, addiction and a rampant sense of marginalization and disillusionment. This is the world the characters in Stephen Markley’s brilliant debut novel, Ohio, inherit. This is New Canaan.
On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.
At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age.
Ohio by Stephen Markley
The Great Recession, wars and political unrest left scars on the town of New Canaan, an unremarkable and stagnant town trapped in a gridlock of apathy and economic loss. New Canaan became a living ghost town, its inhabitants shells of empty potential.
Four former classmates will come together once again, each with their own baggage, heartaches, shortcomings and histories of time spent away from their hometown. Their stories are chaotic, dark and their souls are lost in disillusionment. (Did they expect that life owed them something for existing?)
OHIO by Stephen Markley is by far one of the darkest and most depressing tales of a slice of America’s life as I have ever read. The writing is fabulous, but I found myself so caught up in the atmosphere, that my skin was crawling one minute and the next, I was almost overpowered by the depressing state of affairs.
Did I like the characters, um, only a couple of them. I admit, I struggled to continue at some points, but always the turmoil would suck me back until the emotional toilets were flushed and overflowing.
All in all, a read that one will love or hate with very few caught straddling the fence, especially if you find that relatable hook to your own memories and confusions or disillusionments about what you thought life would hold for you.
I received a complimentary ARC edition from Simon & Schuster!