Book Review: Ohio

Author: Stephen Markley
Published: August 21, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
FLW Rating: 2/5

I was so drawn to this book as a mash up of murder and social commentary — but I’m here to tell you it was neither. What I got out of this book was a very long and very wordy diatribe on modern America. To make it worse the pacing was uneven and the loose ends that made the plot intriguing never came together. Let me explain.

Ohio is the story of one night in the small town of New Canaan, Ohio, when four former classmates have returned home and somewhat accidentally run in to eachother. Told from the perspective of four distinct voices, each protagonist¬†revists their past, while building up to the night of reunion, to form the full story of life today in America’s midwest.

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This story covered it all — 9/11, terrorism, the opioid crisis, domestic violence, gay rights, and honestly probably even more than this. Basically – this book tried to do it all (hence the length of almost 500 pages). My issue is that it didn’t do any of them well. Most topics were both skimmed over and brutalized. The story didn’t dig in to any topic in particular, but instead just created a sort of chaos of negativity. In the end I didn’t finish the book with a heightened sense of awareness on any given topic and that truly disappointed me.

In a book like this, I like to trace the story through the perspectives and guess as to how they will all come together. Near the end of the prologue, Markley established that there was an accident on the far end of town where, as it foreshadowed, all four story lines would unite. The first three stories got there, but the fourth never did. I wasn’t sure if I had missed it, but I discussed the book with a few other reviewers and they agreed, the plot never looped back to the accident at the end — which left me extremely confused and unsatisfied as the reader. In rereading the book description, it appears that the connection between each story was meant to be Rick, a classmate who died in Iraq, but even that didn’t feel like a common thread, more a random coincidence.

The pacing of the book followed a similar pattern — three first stories were slow, but led you to believe that they were headed towards a common climax. On the contrary, the fourth book was INSANE, fast paced, and went in a different direction. I’ll admit that in other books I’ve read recently, I’ve forgiven a slow start for an action packed and rewarding finish, but since the pieces didn’t come together in this case the action packed finish never paid off and was just a greater reminder of the uneven pacing in this book.

My advice to you (since we all interpret books differently so I wouldn’t say don’t read it), is to really prepare yourself. This book is dark, heavy, intricate, and complicated with a ton of sex, violence, politics, and drugs. It may be for you, but it¬†is not for everybody.