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Book Review

by Stephen Markley

Category:  Thriller

Average Rating:  5.0

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.


[2021-05-02 15:32:15]

Rating:  5

This literary novel comprises long, lyrical descriptions and in-depth character development. There are frequent shifts between the present and past reminiscences. The story is told from the perspective of the various main characters, so some events are described from more than one point of view. Each section is read by a different narrator. Caitlin Davies, Jayme Mattler, Joy Osmanski, Jonathan Todd Ross, Corey Brill and Gibson Frazier all perform quite well. The relationships among and between the several main characters can seem a bit overwhelming, especially in the beginning, so it's a good idea to stay focused on the story and pay close attention to these relationships. I think this is one of those stories where a second or even third listen would be quite beneficial.

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