Ohio: Book summary and reviews of Ohio by Stephen Markley

Ohio

by Stephen Markley

Ohio by Stephen Markley X
Ohio by Stephen Markley
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2018
    496 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Markley's prose sparkles with insight and supports an intricate narrative architecture that recalls Nathan Hill's The Nix and Patrick Somerville's This Bright River…highly recommended for all literary collections." - Library Journal

"[A] standout debut…Markley's novel is alternately disturbing and gorgeous, providing a broad view of the anxieties of a post-9/11 Middle America and the complexities of the humans who navigate them." - Publishers Weekly

"This is a big character-driven epic, though it's overinflated in its pronouncements about its setting." - Kirkus

"After the leisurely paced majority of the book, the final 100 pages feel rushed, and the climax comes from seemingly nowhere, but even this does little to take away from an insightful, tragic story." - Booklist

"Drawing on the reunion-novel tradition, he brings together four alumni of the same (fictional) Ohio high school on one momentous evening a decade after graduation, each with their own pattern of escape and return - and their own mission of repentance or retribution." - Vulture

"Stephen Markley is an expert cartographer of the American Rust Belt and the haunted landscapes of his characters' interiors. A fast-moving and devastating debut." - Karen Russell, New York Times bestselling author of Swamplandia!

"Ohio is that rarest of unicorns, a novel that swings for the fences, and actually tries to explain just what the fuck happened to this country after the towers fell, and how we got to this awful particular moment. Stephen Markley goes for the universe with every single sentence he writes. That the universe answers him as often as it does makes for a hugely impressive first novel." - Charles Brock, New York Timesbestselling author of Alice & Oliver

"If the American dream has given way to American carnage, then this is the great American novel of its time. Stephen Markley is a gifted storyteller who has written a fearless and impressive debut." - David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha and The Betrayers

"Ohio is heartbreaking, frightening, and occasionally, amidst the sorrow and horror, transcendent - a novel that casts the clearest possible eye on people haunted by who they used to be and might have become, and a country haunted by the same. Stephen Markley is unflinching." - Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination

This information about Ohio shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Travelady

Very slow start.
When I originally read the description of this book, I was intrigued by the subject. Reunions of high school friends are usually fraught with "Great Expectations" but rarely live up to those hopes. I expect all readers will remember explicitly where they were when the towers fell and would probably agree that it changed all of us in so many ways. Each of the characters deeply felt the impact of the event and each responded in very different ways.

The first character to be described in great detail is that of Bill Ashcraft and I disliked him so much that I almost discontinued the book. An egotistical alcoholic and drug addict whose constant political rants were annoying to me. I think some of my issues were generational ones...I am out of touch with people who readily choose to abuse drugs, themselves and who view the world with a perpetually jaundiced eye. I could neither care about nor sympathize with this bright young man who seemed to accomplish very little in his life considering his intellectual gifts.

The next character was much more sympathetic in her attitude but I couldn't help but wonder at the strange (to me) choice of her topic for her graduate work. Stacey Moore's description of her discovery of her sexuality was truly poignant.

Dan Eaton may have been my favorite character in the book. A self described total nerd in high school but protected and valued by several females in his class. He spent his whole life loving the first female who paid him any attention. His sense of duty to friendships and relationships made him endearing.

The last character we meet in the book is really a tragic one. Tina Ross broke my heart in so many ways. Sweet and naive girls are so often used in high school and she was a heartbreaking classic.

Simply said if you can get past Bill Ashcraft's giant obnoxious ego, the rest of the book is a noteworthy, engaging saga with fluid writing, realistic dialogue and believable situations that high school students find themselves in. The elements of mystery are sprinkled through out the book and the final resolution is shocking and somehow satisfying at the same time. You will not forget this book.

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Author Information

Stephen Markley

Stephen Markley is an author, screenwriter, and journalist. A graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Markley's previous books include the memoir Publish This Book: The Unbelievable True Story of How I Wrote, Sold, and Published This Very Book, and the travelogue Tales of Iceland. He lives in Los Angeles.

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