Ohio
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 Details

TitleOhio
Author
ReleaseAug 21st, 2018
PublisherSimon Schuster
ISBN-139781501174476
Rating
GenreFiction, Mystery, Literary Fiction

Ohio Review

  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Stars”Everybody knows that the dice are loadedEverybody rolls with their fingers crossedEverybody knows the war is overEverybody knows the good guys lostEverybody knows the fight was fixedThe poor stay poor, the rich get richThat's how it goesEverybody knows“Everybody knows that the boat is leakingEverybody knows that the captain liedEverybody got this broken feelingLike their father or their dog just diedEverybody talking to their pocketsEverybody wants a box of chocolatesAnd a long-stem ro 4.5 Stars”Everybody knows that the dice are loadedEverybody rolls with their fingers crossedEverybody knows the war is overEverybody knows the good guys lostEverybody knows the fight was fixedThe poor stay poor, the rich get richThat's how it goesEverybody knows“Everybody knows that the boat is leakingEverybody knows that the captain liedEverybody got this broken feelingLike their father or their dog just diedEverybody talking to their pocketsEverybody wants a box of chocolatesAnd a long-stem roseEverybody knows” --Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Sharon RobinsonUnrelenting pain, broken people, a country torn apart by recession and an act of violence against America, people everywhere hurting, the opiod crisis, wars, and the damage they invoke on those fighting in them, who carry that damage with them after they’ve returned home to this small town in northeastern Ohio they refer to as “The Cane.” There are four who return there the summer of 2013, each having lived all of their years with this country in a state of war, with recession destroying what was once the town they lived and loved in. They have memories of those years, and they are not always particularly fond ones, although there is still an abundance of nostalgia for this place, it is riddled with the pain of the scars that they carry, and yet it is still a part of them. Home.This story begins with the prelude, with a funeral procession carrying an empty coffin (loaned by Walmart), draped with an American flag is being carried on a flatbed trailer down the street when the breeze went from calm to that high, almost whistling shriek, carrying the stars and stripes off in a frenzy of gusts and swirls until the knobby contorted branch managed to capture it. This small town was America, as red, white and blue on this day as any other, with small flags carefully positioned every fifteen feet more than a mile leading up to the town square. Children walked with small flags in their grasp, and flags waved from the backs of bikes.Regrets and secrets are carried on the wind, but never leave them, everywhere they look they are reminded of memories loaded with shame, humiliation, resentment, rage, ugliness and a vague wistfulness for something that never was, for them. A promise of a life with more, and a need to hold someone, something accountable.This is a beautifully written, if very bleak, story about the towns, cities, and people left behind, marginalized, after everything collapsed. When your life, the life you knew, is ripped away leaving only a shell of what you knew, despair, anger, and resentment fills in the empty spaces. When that becomes your everyday life, it isn’t easy to live with when every day is filled with despair. On some level you must rail against the injustice of it all, or just fold, but even that doesn’t last long until it’s replaced by another emotion. Underneath this heartbreaking story is a commentary / critique of our current society, as viewed through the eyes of these people, this place, but it could be anyplace. This was not an easy read for me, especially in the beginning, but I am so happy that I stuck with it. Before long, I didn’t want to put this down. I re-read sections over and over, not because I didn’t understand them, but because Markley writes so beautifully, and in his debut, Stephen Markley has written a story that will have you thinking about America’s present circumstances, about our towns and people. A discerning and disturbing story of these seemingly discarded towns of America, through these unstable and tumultuous times. To borrow a thought, a phrase from Langston Hughes - This town, these towns, these cities, these people – they, too, sing America. Pub Date: 21 AUG 2018Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster
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  • Mackey St
    January 1, 1970
    Stephen Markley’s first fiction book, OHIO, is definitely not for the faint of heart. Having written previous non-fiction books, Markley undertakes an ambitious project writing about a rural, Northeaster, Ohio town suffering from the Great Recession, the opioid crisis and the after-effects of 9/11.OHIO centers around the story of four high school friends who are reunited a decade after their graduation. It also circles around the story of one of those friends who was killed in Iraq. In fact, the Stephen Markley’s first fiction book, OHIO, is definitely not for the faint of heart. Having written previous non-fiction books, Markley undertakes an ambitious project writing about a rural, Northeaster, Ohio town suffering from the Great Recession, the opioid crisis and the after-effects of 9/11.OHIO centers around the story of four high school friends who are reunited a decade after their graduation. It also circles around the story of one of those friends who was killed in Iraq. In fact, the entire beginning of the book is one long running commentary on the funeral parade for this man which occurs months after his actual burial, and which features an empty casket on loan from Wal Mart. There were many part of this exegesis that reminded me of Garrison Keillor and his Tales of Lake Wobegon. The writing flows with excess and verbiage that is both descriptive and, well, over-the-top. To a certain extent, though not as talented, it also reminds of William Faulkner who could describe a scene to death.After this opening finally ends, Markley presents us with characters that are quite nearly a stereotype for small, Midwestern, rural towns. I should know, I live in one and I’ve known many from the area from which Markley is drawing his inspiration. In fact, Markley was reared in such a small town very much like the one he is describing – but he has been living in L.A. for  many years.OHIO is an examination of the fervor  that occurred in many small towns after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Smelling blood, military recruiters swarmed into these towns whipped up “patriotism” like a spell across the land. Those who were poor, bored or looking for a way out of these towns, eagerly bought the lies that these recruiters were dishing out like candy. As a result, the Midwest now if faced with higher numbers of veteran homelessness, drug addition to the crisis point and crime, which is needed to feed their addictions.This is a very dark, very descriptive – overly so – account of war, drugs, addiction and despair.However, while I like the premise of the book, my criticism is two-fold.  Markley claims that the book is an accurate description of the war battles and recruitment during this time – he also admits that he “once was very anti-war.” His anti-war sentiments don’t come through for me in OHIO. His remarks about why he is not as adamantly “anti-war,” disturb me on a very deep level. Americans only now are beginning to look at 9/11 as “history” rather than current events.  Any time an author writes about it, their own biases and leanings are revealed. The fact is, many – too many – young men were lied to, sold a bill of goods that were rotten and the “war in Iraq” was nothing except a military exercise to build the American Empire. You can not talk about the “rust belt” of America without directly talking about the massive loss of jobs, the cut back in education funding, the lack of medical treatment – ALL courtesy of the American government. The darkness here, in my mid-west, is very real. The opioid crisis is staggering. But Markley’s views are merely more fiction added to the mix, militarily accurate according to the recruiters with whom he spoke, but we all know how truthful they can be.  For the record, I’m the wife of COL (ret) so I’m very familiar with the military, the war and the lies that were told after 9/11.Secondly, one complaint that I have regarding Southern writers is that they use thirty words to describe what could be brilliantly written in ten. Markley writes more like a southern writer than one from the mid-west where words never are wasted and verbosity is, quite nearly, considered a sin. This book is too long, too drawn out, too much of everything that is not quality. Readers who think that the book is dark would see a more fitting picture of the Rust Belt if they didn’t have to wade through the unnecessary muck. I wanted to scream: “edit, Edit, EDIT.” Sadly, there was none.If you want to read an astounding account of what reality is like in a rural rust belt town, I suggest instead that you read “Fast Falls the Night” by Julia Keller. It also is a very disturbing read but one based on fact, expertly written and staggering in its accurate  description of what it really is like to live in such a town as mine.OHIO was given to me by #Netgalley in exchange for a review of the book. 
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    "Riding backTo where the highway metDead end tracksThe ground is now cement and glassAnd far awayHeal her soul, carry her, my angel, OhioGreen green youthWhat about the sweetness we knewWhat about what's good what's trueFrom those daysCan't count toAll the lovers I've burned throughSo why do I still burn for youI can't saySorry thatI could never love you backI could never care enough in these last daysHeal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohi0" – Carry Me Ohio- Lyrics by Mark Kozelek I’m not sur "Riding backTo where the highway metDead end tracksThe ground is now cement and glassAnd far awayHeal her soul, carry her, my angel, OhioGreen green youthWhat about the sweetness we knewWhat about what's good what's trueFrom those daysCan't count toAll the lovers I've burned throughSo why do I still burn for youI can't saySorry thatI could never love you backI could never care enough in these last daysHeal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohi0" – Carry Me Ohio- Lyrics by Mark Kozelek I’m not sure I can give this book the review it deserves. Ostensibly, it is a novel about turmoil, the inner feelings and the outer experiences, that transpired in the years since 9/11, specifically for a group of small town high school friends who came of age during this time. However, as I read it, I felt a pull back to my own youth and the observations and feelings we experienced during the Viet Nam war. There are many differences, to be sure, but the same conflicted emotions and beliefs, the same struggles to make sense of it all in the midst of the exuberance and wild excesses of youth – none of that has changed.This novel weaves in and out, backward and forward, among students in New Canaan, Ohio. They are the jocks, both football heroes and the hero-worshipping volleyball-playing girlfriends or cheerleaders. They are geeks and nerds. They are children trying to figure out who and what they are and what they believe, in a town where alcohol and meth and oxy and sex and love and sorrow and Christianity cross all lines and blur together. The story is told in separate chapters from the points of view of the main characters, and move from the present to the past and back again in each chapter. This writing style could go horribly wrong in some books; in this one, it works to perfection. This is an intricate, detailed story; every character is key, and it’s important to pay attention all the way through. I made the mistake of slightly skimming through the prologue, because I erroneously believed at that point that the book would be mostly narrative, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like that. I was wrong on both counts; there is substantial dialogue throughout, and I found myself, at 75% through, going back to re-read the prologue because I loved the book so much, I wanted to make sure I understood every step the author had led me through before I reached the end.This is not a pretty book, but it’s a beautifully written one. It is filled with darkness and horror, despair and pain. The sadness is overwhelming at times, but never does it not seem absolutely, one hundred percent real. There are lines that made me want to weep with the beauty of them, with the sheer lyrical loveliness of them. I’m a sucker for any story that paints a picture so heart-breaking that you believe while you’re reading it that you’ll never read anything more perfect. Ohio did this for me.Be aware that this may not be an easy read for some of you. There are events that happen throughout that are unpleasant and traumatic, all the way to the very end. But I loved it.Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the privilege of an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review. 5 stars, at the very minimum.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Ohio by Stephen Markley is the story of a Rust Belt town and the people who live in it. Markley is the author of 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.Growing up and living in Cleveland, I remember the tail end of the 1960s, 1970s, and the early 1980s, before leaving for the Marines.  I can recall the culture and impending doom that Ohio brings out. The industry-based economy had been stumb Ohio by Stephen Markley is the story of a Rust Belt town and the people who live in it. Markley is the author of 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.Growing up and living in Cleveland, I remember the tail end of the 1960s, 1970s, and the early 1980s, before leaving for the Marines.  I can recall the culture and impending doom that Ohio brings out. The industry-based economy had been stumbling for quite some time with several false starts towards recovery. My parents moved to the suburbs in the 1980s which seemed nice, basically major crime free, nice schools, park, and library. Today the opiates have replaced marijuana. Unemployment leaves a chronic shadow on the community.I was drawn to the book not only by name and location, Northeast Ohio but also by the cover. I try not to be drawn in by the book covers but this one took me back. Although the convenient store on the cover displays the colors of the 7/11 chain, I was reminded of the Lawson's store at the corner of my street. There were quite a lot of memories tied to the store from drinking Coke on the loading dock, buying lunch food at the deli, and playing pinball inside the store.The writing in this novel is superb. There is a great effort in the setting and the characters that creates depth to the story moving it from just a novel into literature: A vortex of blue light spilled across the pavement, the streets, the downtown buildings, swirling violet violence and a piercing hiss as the oxygen was sucked into another dimension.  It flew backwards into the hot cerulean spiral, gazing mad black eyes, and when it passed over the edge of existence, the puncture in the universe wheezed painfully and then zipped up like a wound stitching itself shut. Like the cover shot in the night, most of the book seems to take place in a darkness. The image of an eternal night is filled with things that are not seen by all or even most people. Night hides a variety of ills which the book slowly reveals. The city itself is New Canaan which plays on Biblical Canaan. The Biblical Canaan was the promised land of the Israelites -- the land of milk and honey. New Canaan, however, is the land of broken dreams and anguish.  Glory Days have turned to drugs, drinking, and self-mutilation.  Industry has left, the real estate market never recovered, homes are foreclosed, a few bars and a local restaurant is all that seems to remain. The economic disaster that has come to define the region is brought out through the characters lives, four of which have come back to the city for various reasons.  Bill Ashcraft an activist and outspoken anti-war crusader, whose life has become a blur of alcohol and drugs, comes back as a courier for former classmate Kaylyn.  Stacey Moore a Ph.D. candidate in English returns to meet with the mother of her high school lover.  Dan Eaton a veteran of three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and balances his need to escape New Canaan and the girl he left behind.  Tina Ross the daughter of a minister struggles with popularity and her beliefs.   Also having a major role in the story, but only through flashbacks, are the football hero and Marine Corporal Rick Brinkland whose funeral opens the book.  Lisa Han, half Vietnamese, raised by a single caucasian mother plays a central role connecting the other characters together.  She remains a bit of the mystery as no one has seen her since high school but some have received emails and postcards. The story introduces separate threads that weave together into a complete story.  Each bit of information revealed in the story is tied together wonderfully by the end of the novel.  Markley manages to introduce almost every key issue of that generation into the novel without forcing any issue into the story.  Crime, drugs, terrorism, war, anti-war, sexuality, murder, sex, abuse both physical and emotional, are all pieces that complete the picture.  Revealing the sins of the past brings little cheer to the reader. Instead, the reader will be rewarded with a dark story that is played over and over in may Rust Belt cities.  Those who live or lived there know it well and others will be introduced to the American nightmare.  Fiction mimics real life in Ohio. Available: August 21st 2018
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Markley’s thunderous debut is not to be missed. My thanks go to Simon and Schuster and Net Galley for the review copy, which I read free and early, but this is one of the rare times I can say that if I’d paid full hardcover price, it would have been worth it. This is the summer’s best fiction, and it’s available to the public August 21, 2018. Our story is broken into a prelude and four additional parts, each assigned to a different protagonist, all of whom knew one another, traveling separately Markley’s thunderous debut is not to be missed. My thanks go to Simon and Schuster and Net Galley for the review copy, which I read free and early, but this is one of the rare times I can say that if I’d paid full hardcover price, it would have been worth it. This is the summer’s best fiction, and it’s available to the public August 21, 2018. Our story is broken into a prelude and four additional parts, each assigned to a different protagonist, all of whom knew one another, traveling separately from four different directions; they were born during the great recession of the 1980s and graduated from New Canaan High in 2002, the first class to graduate after 9/11. We open with the funeral parade held for Rick Brinklan, the former football star killed in Iraq. His coffin is rented from Walmart and he isn’t in it; wind tears the flag off it and sends it out of reach to snag in the trees. The mood is set: each has returned to their tiny, depressed home town, New Canaan, Ohio, for a different purpose. The town and its population has been devastated economically by the failure of the auto industry:“New Canaan had this look, like a magazine after it’s tossed on the fire, the way the pages blacken and curl as they begin to burn, but just before the flames take over.”At the mention of football, I groan inwardly, fearing stereotypes of jocks and cheerleaders, but that’s not what happens here. Every character is developed so completely that I feel I would know them on the street; despite the similarity in age and ethnicity among nearly all of them, there is never a moment when I mix them up. And the characters that are remembered by all but are not present are as central to the story as those that are. As in life, there is no character that is completely lovable or benign; yet almost everyone is capable of some goodness and has worthwhile goals. Families recall the closure of an industrial plant with the same gravity with which one would remember the death of a beloved family member; the loss has been life changing. Residents are reduced to jobs in retail sales and fast food, welfare, the drug trade, and military service due not to legal compulsion, but economic necessity. Everyone has suffered; Walmart alone has grown fatter and richer. This is an epic story that has it all. We see the slide experienced by many of New Canaan’s own since their idealistic, spirited teenaged selves emerged from high school to a world less welcoming than they anticipated. One of the most poignant moments is an understated one in which Kaylyn dreams of going away to school in Toledo. This reviewer lived in Toledo during the time when these youngsters would have been born, and I am nearly undone by the notion that this place is the focus of one girl’s hopes and dreams, the goal she longs for so achingly that she is almost afraid to think of it lest it be snatched away. Because much of each character’s internal monologue reaches back to adolescence, we revisit their high school years, but some of one person’s fondest recollections are later brought back in another character’s reminiscence as disappointing, even nightmarish. The tale is haunting in places, hilarious in others, but there is never a moment where the teen angst of the past is permitted to become a soap opera. Side characters add to the book’s appeal. I love the way academics and teachers are depicted here. There’s also a bizarre yet strangely satisfying bar scene unlike any other. Those in search of feel-good stories are out of luck here, but those that treasure sterling literary fiction need look no further. Markley has created a masterpiece, and I look forward to seeing what else he has in store for us.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    This seems to be one of the buzziest books of the season, but it did NOTHING for me. It seems to be pretty standard Literary White Guy™ fare: kind of dry and self-indulgent. So I'm abandoning it halfway through.
  • Joyce
    January 1, 1970
    2 starsThis is an interesting debut novel. This books is a story about four late-twenties people who are tortured by their past. They came from a small town in Ohio nicknamed “The Cane” for New Canaan, Ohio. They are trying to forge a future for themselves. The town itself has suffered hard times for quite a while. From the Great Depression to drug wars and, lately, the banking crisis with its attendant foreclosures and evictions; these all play a part in the story. The people who live there see 2 starsThis is an interesting debut novel. This books is a story about four late-twenties people who are tortured by their past. They came from a small town in Ohio nicknamed “The Cane” for New Canaan, Ohio. They are trying to forge a future for themselves. The town itself has suffered hard times for quite a while. From the Great Depression to drug wars and, lately, the banking crisis with its attendant foreclosures and evictions; these all play a part in the story. The people who live there seem to be sunk into a kind of depression; a lethargy and hopelessness about their daily lives. We meet Bill who is an addict and a drunk who is on a secret mission to The Cane. This is a depressing book. I really couldn’t understand the purpose of writing it at all, Dan, who is a three-time veteran of the Iraq war who is very shy and planning to take a former girlfriend out on a date. There is Tina who is lost in her own problems and others. While memorable, I really had no sympathy for any of the characters, especially Bill. I began to page through anything that had to do with him. I was tired of his ramblings and his nonsensical talk. I can’t say that this book was well written and the plotting seemed to wander at times. As I said before, I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I used sheer willpower to plow through this book, and I did not enjoy it. It was a trial. I don’t believe that I’ll read any more of Stephen Markely’s books. On the surface, the premise seemed so good and promising. I was truly disappointed. I want to thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for forwarding to me a copy of this book for me to read.
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    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 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!Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 21, 2018)Publication Date: August 21, 2018Genre: Fiction | MysteryPrint Length: 496 pagesAvailable from: Amazon | Barnes & NobleFor Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
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  • Loring Wirbel
    January 1, 1970
    This is quite an achievement for a debut novel, though the despair of growing up in a small town in the Midwest as Markley pictures it is unrelenting. In the case of Ohio, the despair is not just the singular sort of "lives of quiet desperation" strung out on opioids, but a broader despair that pulls many of its characters toward crimes against their friends, and even against humanity, making the book downright horrific in the end. But that factor is exactly what prevents the book from being awa This is quite an achievement for a debut novel, though the despair of growing up in a small town in the Midwest as Markley pictures it is unrelenting. In the case of Ohio, the despair is not just the singular sort of "lives of quiet desperation" strung out on opioids, but a broader despair that pulls many of its characters toward crimes against their friends, and even against humanity, making the book downright horrific in the end. But that factor is exactly what prevents the book from being awarded a full five stars in my mind, because the suggestions for grace and redemption are so limited, the town of New Canaan seems like the horror-show version of any Midwestern town I've ever known. If and when Markley can season his prose with a touch of the sort of empathy practiced by Zadie Smith, Richard Powers, or even David Foster Wallace, he is bound to grow into one of the nation's best writers.The first few pages had me worried at times. Since Markley attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop under Ethan Canin, I was surprised to see a few passages early on that seemed both over-wrought and overwritten. Thankfully, by 30 or 40 pages in, those passages were replaced by a gripping narrative and occasionally brilliant descriptive prose that made it difficult not to get completely wrapped up in the four primary characters of the high school graduating class of 2003 that make up the focal points of the book. These are stereotypes of a sort, but stereotypes seen through a cracked mirror - a star basketball jock who turns to radical politics and too many drugs as a means of self-aggrandizement; a nerd who signs up for multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan as a way of finding a brotherhood of meaning; an apparently devout Christian girl who undergoes a lesbian awakening in high school. It's not the typical jocks vs. freaks vs. geeks tale of small-town America, but there is still a lack of subtlety in the characters that makes the reader occasionally want to say, "Not everyone can live like Hunter S. Thompson, particularly if they're only high school seniors!"As a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that I am a generation ahead of the protagonists in Ohio, though the problems of small-town cliques and drugs and dissipation did not seem to change much between the classes of 1975 and 2003. I grew up in a town of 5000 in mid-Michigan, so I know the territory well, but i did not have to suffer through Michigan under Snyder, Wisconsin under Walker, or any of the regional Trump-trolls. (Ohio is a special case under Kasich, but the state is full of Buckeyes gone bad.) Yes, a Midwest gutted of its industrial base is a grim place, both in terms of the narcotics problem and in terms of the political wasteland of resurgent white supremacy. And yet, and yet...I experienced a gruesome 2006 akin to the author's 2013, where classmates died in rapid succession from a bicycle bomb in Kandahar, a gruesome suicide in an ex-girlfriend's driveway, and a transient's stabbing of a paraplegic woman. I know what the year of climax for wayward alumni can feel like. Yet none of the graduates of my high school were active perpetrators of crimes as truly grim as those coming from New Canaan's best and brightest. The characters departing the town feel they are leaving a special kind of hell, and with good reason. I do not doubt that every small town has secrets, and that the numbers of serial murders and small-scale terrorist acts are greater than we know or wish to admit. Yet I always see my original home as a place of redemption and hope, not as a set for a Stephen King movie.The most empathetic and believable character in the book is the absent Lisa Han, who helped bring many other protagonists to self-awareness, yet who (apparently) got out while the getting was good. Of the four characters who make up the four sections of the book, only Stacey Moore is relatively easy to discern as a real person. Bill Ashcraft mixes a tough analytical world view with epic drug use, yet his politics seem carved from a Noam Chomsky cookie-cutter, and he is so self-absorbed, he seems never to have attempted the Buddhist dissolution of the ego that is an important part of any truly effective political actor. Dan Eaton's patriotism or reason for enlisting seem ill-defined, a reflection of his floating high-school years. Maybe his deceased friend Rick had a cornier view of American power in the world, but at least one could discern how Rick saw the world, and that he had a simplistic moral sense missing from many of his compatriots on the football team. And as for Tina Ross, she was indeed a damaged victim of horrible crimes, but she finds few ways of standing up and defining herself until the climax of the book.Meanwhile, we are greeted with high school pals like Kaylyn, Todd Beaufort, and the Flood Brothers who almost seem to be gargoyles in their one-dimensionality. Hey, we all know people from our graduating class who have "ghosted" themselves and become invisible, but Markley would have us believe that many of them are hiding horrors far worse than unpopularity or parental abuse. Maybe I'm a sucker for the bucolic scenery one can find in a small town, but my view simply isn't as unrelentingly dark as Markley's, and ultimately, I think this makes this less literary fiction and more horrific thriller. But the writing often is marvelous enough to fall into the former camp. With luck, Markley will opt for a slightly lighter touch and an empathetic, loving tone in future works that will make it easy to award five stars for novels to come.
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  • Judy
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! This book touched on all the crises of our times - the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism and violence against America, the opiod crisis, the recession that devastated the country, and more. At once it is a mystery but also a slice of life for today. I found it totally engrossing and it had an ending I didn't see coming. The writing is very descriptive and puts you in the scene so that you can see the character interaction. The description of the characters in high school were spot-on.I Wow! This book touched on all the crises of our times - the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism and violence against America, the opiod crisis, the recession that devastated the country, and more. At once it is a mystery but also a slice of life for today. I found it totally engrossing and it had an ending I didn't see coming. The writing is very descriptive and puts you in the scene so that you can see the character interaction. The description of the characters in high school were spot-on.I'm hearing that Stephen Markley is a major talent - and I agree. Especially since this is a debut novel. Thanks to Stephen Markley and Simon & Schuster through Netgalley for an advance copy.
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  • Paula DeBoard
    January 1, 1970
    A sprawling storyline, covering numerous characters over a couple of decades. There are mysteries and secrets here, and some satisfying and unexpected resolutions. At times the digressions felt too forced and a bit too long--the present-day story was compelling, and that's what I wanted to return to sooner. An impressive debut.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    This is the kind of totally immersive novel that can keep you up at night. One night in 2013, four former classmates find themselves once more in New Canaan, Ohio, or as they call it, The Cane. Their reasons differ, but each is afforded a novella-length section for their story to be told in overlapping precise detail. Stephen Markley has written two other books, but this is his first novel, and as with many journalists, his prose is clear, incisive and totally involving. Despite its length, ther This is the kind of totally immersive novel that can keep you up at night. One night in 2013, four former classmates find themselves once more in New Canaan, Ohio, or as they call it, The Cane. Their reasons differ, but each is afforded a novella-length section for their story to be told in overlapping precise detail. Stephen Markley has written two other books, but this is his first novel, and as with many journalists, his prose is clear, incisive and totally involving. Despite its length, there isn't a superfluous word and no repetition. This is how the generation called "the Millennials" came to adulthood, and underlying it all, how Donald Trump became president. The former generation is hardly fleshed out at all - Millennials are front and center, their history developed under the effects of 911, the subsequent wars in the Middle East, the opioid crisis and the great recession. As if that weren't enough, crime plays a large part, but not in an ordinary or cliched way. People disappear, reappear, sometimes with little or no warning. I look forward to what Markley's does next.
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  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    Totally bleak, exhausting novel. Not recommended. Complete review to be posted closer to the publication date of 8/21.
  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Ohio is not a book about living in the past, nor is it about trying to change the past, but as Markley so eloquently puts it, it’s about the storm called progress. For me, the narrative combines a Richard Russo novel, Hillbilly Elegy, and Billy’s Long Halftime Walk. It’s an excellent contemplation of small town life in a part of this country, and a war that many people have forgotten about. I wholeheartedly recommend Ohio; it is very important literature.Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schus Ohio is not a book about living in the past, nor is it about trying to change the past, but as Markley so eloquently puts it, it’s about the storm called progress. For me, the narrative combines a Richard Russo novel, Hillbilly Elegy, and Billy’s Long Halftime Walk. It’s an excellent contemplation of small town life in a part of this country, and a war that many people have forgotten about. I wholeheartedly recommend Ohio; it is very important literature.Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Stephen Markley for the advanced copy for review.Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/03/10/oh...Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'You passed your time in the cage, he figured, by clinging pointlessly and desperately to an endless series of unfinished sorrows. 'The character developement in this book is fantastic, because they are all heavy with some sort of sorrow. This town is like many others, falling into hard times, gritty, poverty striken, drug riddled, and it’s people as worn down and burned out on life or drugs. The author takes you into the dark recesses of his lo via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'You passed your time in the cage, he figured, by clinging pointlessly and desperately to an endless series of unfinished sorrows. 'The character developement in this book is fantastic, because they are all heavy with some sort of sorrow. This town is like many others, falling into hard times, gritty, poverty striken, drug riddled, and it’s people as worn down and burned out on life or drugs. The author takes you into the dark recesses of his lost characters. There isn’t much hope here. Of all the stories, the last hit me between the eyes. Tina Ross is returning home to Ohio, her mind on love. If her theory about love, ‘that you can only have- really, truly- one love of your life”, then it comes early and leads her back to Number 56, for her. This love, of her re-telling, descends into serious abuse, which got me to thinking about teenage girls in general and unhealthy love. Really, you can pick any woman, search her heart’s timeline and for most, there is a relationship where she likely succumbed to self-destruction for one partner. Love hurts, love hurts, love hurts playing on a loop in her love-sick mind. Tina has returned to see 56, her one true love, who may have ruined her for any normal healthy relationship. I wish I could get deeper into this twisted story but I don’t want to give away what happens.The first story is about Corporal Richard Jared Brinklan, killed in action in Iraq, whose life intersected with the characters in each story. A ceremony to honor the fallen soldier, immediately doesn’t feel so honorable when one who is chosen to speak, high school girlfriend Kaylyn Lyn is ‘stupefyingly high’, and their love story was one she ended coldly, cruelly. She is a mess herself, if once pretty and popular she is washed out and just as wrecked as anyone else in the novel. Then there is Bill Ashcroft, the smuggler distracted by the ‘fraternity’ of fellow aging, used up small town football athletes at the bar. It’s a given, after all, to run into the boys ‘relics’ anytime one is back in town. High out of his mind and drunk, remembering his glory years where memories are tainted, and out of some misdirected rage others became targets, and each story veers off elsewhere. No two memories are the same.A small town like any other, bored teens with nothing to do but ruin each other or self-destruct. Factor in 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the earnestness when one first ‘joins up’ to fight a cause, the disaffected, broken returns, ambition that sinks you deeper until you abandon hope and you have Ohio. The writing is rich and while not every story held me, I was engaged. A promising new talent to be sure!Publication Date: August 21, 2018Simon & Schuster
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars. My starred review for this novel was published in the May 1, 2018, edition of Library Journal:Markley's ambitious debut novel (following a memoir, Publish This Book) reunites four high school classmates on a fateful summer night in their Ohio hometown, in what reads like a darker-themed epilogue to Friday Night Lights. Hollowed out by a generation of war, addiction, and crippling recession, the quintessential Midwestern town of New Canaan serves as a magnet for our protagonists, as th 4.5 stars. My starred review for this novel was published in the May 1, 2018, edition of Library Journal:Markley's ambitious debut novel (following a memoir, Publish This Book) reunites four high school classmates on a fateful summer night in their Ohio hometown, in what reads like a darker-themed epilogue to Friday Night Lights. Hollowed out by a generation of war, addiction, and crippling recession, the quintessential Midwestern town of New Canaan serves as a magnet for our protagonists, as they struggle to break free of their shared histories. There's an antiwar provocateur whose activism gave way to drugs and alcohol, driving back into town with a package taped to his truck; a doctoral candidate whose forbidden lover has not been heard from in nearly ten years; a reticent war veteran who chose three tours in Iraq over a future with the love of his life; and the quarterback's ex-girlfriend, whose beauty and popularity mask a shame that she finally resolves to address. 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. VERDICT This bleak but honest survey of 21st-century America is highly recommended for all literary collections.Copyright ©2018 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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  • Christine Lowe
    January 1, 1970
    It's hard to believe this is Stephen Markley's first novel. His voice captured my attention as his words made the mundane beautiful. I took my time reading so I could enjoy the pictures his words brought to life in my mind's eye. The setting is a small town in northeastern Ohio. Life in New Canaan is like life in many small towns across America. Everybody is hurt by the recession. Factories are vacant and many of the small businesses are closed. Add to this angst four people who are returning fo It's hard to believe this is Stephen Markley's first novel. His voice captured my attention as his words made the mundane beautiful. I took my time reading so I could enjoy the pictures his words brought to life in my mind's eye. The setting is a small town in northeastern Ohio. Life in New Canaan is like life in many small towns across America. Everybody is hurt by the recession. Factories are vacant and many of the small businesses are closed. Add to this angst four people who are returning for very different reasons.The story is well told in a nonlinear fashion. This is not a book for the faint hearted. Some of the subjects are difficult to read about but the telling is necessary to advance the story. Mr Markley did an amazing job weaving the characters stories together to bring this book to a gut wrenching conclusion. I strongly recommend this book to serious readers.Thank you Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for providing an Advanced Readers Copy.
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  • Angela Walker
    January 1, 1970
    I was initially interested in this story because my husband is a soldier from Ohio who served 3 tours in the Iraq war. The characters are my age and the author does a really good job describing living in NE OH. I actually live in NW Ohio but its the same climate and problems so much so I could be a character in the story. I grew up in a small Ohio town, was a Sunday school teacher, dated an older guy and got into similar trouble as the characters until we broke up when I turned 18. My mother wor I was initially interested in this story because my husband is a soldier from Ohio who served 3 tours in the Iraq war. The characters are my age and the author does a really good job describing living in NE OH. I actually live in NW Ohio but its the same climate and problems so much so I could be a character in the story. I grew up in a small Ohio town, was a Sunday school teacher, dated an older guy and got into similar trouble as the characters until we broke up when I turned 18. My mother worked in a factory and hurt her back so she got addicted to prescription pills for years until she realized she was dying and quit. I married a soldier and live with the affects of going to war. The book hits home.
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  • Andrew Cutler
    January 1, 1970
    Four linked novellas following a group of Millenials from a small rural Ohio town, “ Ohio” dispenses with linear time, jumping back and forth from high school, one particular night ten years later, and their lives in the years between. The writing is sharp and concise, the characters believable . I anticipate that this will be a huge hit.Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the ARC.
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  • Tonstant Weader
    January 1, 1970
    This new millennium has been a rough one for America. Just one year in and a few men with boxcutters wounded us. We realized the oceans did not make us invulnerable. Our reaction was malpractice and we have not recovered. The most powerful and costly military in human history is mired in an endless war with impoverished people using improvised weapons. Unable to win a clear victory, our impotence is exposed. Our once vibrant economy has been hollowed out along with our institutions and infrastru This new millennium has been a rough one for America. Just one year in and a few men with boxcutters wounded us. We realized the oceans did not make us invulnerable. Our reaction was malpractice and we have not recovered. The most powerful and costly military in human history is mired in an endless war with impoverished people using improvised weapons. Unable to win a clear victory, our impotence is exposed. Our once vibrant economy has been hollowed out along with our institutions and infrastructure. The recession erased the accumulated wealth of generations of middle-class families. Corporate control of government has left ordinary Americans struggling and disillusioned. Ridden with anxiety they self-medicate with meth, crack, and heroin. The bonds of community have been eroded by the cults of the prosperity gospel and self-help–atomizing doctrines of alienation and anomie. Those of us who came of age before 2000 remember a very different country. In Ohio, Stephen Markley composes a literary symphony to the generation who came of age as America began to fail.Ohio begins with a parade to honor Rick Brinklan, the local hero who died in the war. This short prelude is a poetic introduction to the town of New Canaan (The Cane) and its people. It reminded me of “The Things They Carried,” the incomparable short story by Tim O’Brien with the short sentences propulsively driving the details of the people and the place. In the prelude, Markley warns us his story will take us for a ride, “It’s hard to say where any of this ends or how it ever began, because what you eventually learn is that there is no such thing as linear.”The heart of the Ohio symphony is the four long narrative movements that tell the stories of Bill Ashcroft, the disillusioned activist silencing his demons with alcohol and pills; Stacey Moore, the lesbian fundamentalist apostate longing for her first love Lisa Han whose passion for life runs deep through the book; Dan Eaton, the romantic wounded by endless war and lost love; and Tina Ross, a struggling WalMart worker tortured by memories of the past. They weave memories of high school with the present as they travel to New Canaan from their individual exile.Their coming home is not a reunion, it’s a syzygy, a conjunction of three or more celestial bodies in orbit of New Canaan. They scattered after graduation and while their lives still orbit New Canaan from very different distances, it’s just synchronicity that brings them into alignment. But what beautiful synchronicity.Ohio ends with a coda that expands on a motif that appeared in every movement, the local folklore, a legend they all discount. It all brings us to “that eternal moment the prophets all gossip about: when you see the whole span of yourself, how astonishing and alive you were.” It is a devasting conclusion to this great opus.I read 200 or more good books a year and I am confident Ohio will be the best book I read this year. I am pretty sure it will fit comfortably into the list of the 100 best books in my lifetime and I read 200 or more books a year. Markley captures the zeitgeist of America, the fears and hopes, the diverging passions, and the dramatic cultural changes in his characters’ narratives. It is one of those sprawling books that takes us everywhere and brings us back home, exhausted and devastated by the pain and loss–the diminishment of hope, but also invigorated by the love, strength, and humanity.I was initially drawn to Ohio by its cover. The lighting reminded me of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” which signaled a humane sensibility and at its core, Ohio is humane, filled with compassion for its people. Or as Stacey Moore realized, “How quickly contempt can dissipate when faced with the pathetic humanness of another person. You see inside them for even the briefest moment and suddenly empathy blows through. A dark sky cleared by a hard rain.”Ohio is beautifully written. I suppose some people will think it is over-written. Sometimes the words come together with such deliberate care that I stopped simply to savor the composition. I am one of those who is happy to be interrupted in my progress through a story to savor how its words come together. If you have ever lived where snow lasted for months, the descriptive perfection of “scabs of melting snow” will ring true. The writing is often visually beautiful, “He could see for a hundred miles in every direction, from the burlap plains to the peaks and ridges that looked like bones breaking through the skin of the earth.” More than anything, though, Markley’s writing is muscular. It is active with strong and specific verbs. I love how he uses verbs as in when Ashcroft recalls his high school friends and “what a web of truly vexing remembrance these aging boys had constellated within him.” Wow!There is this sweet sadness when I finish a book as powerful as Ohio. The pleasure of reading is tempered by the knowledge I will never discover it for the first time again. That moment of surprise that feels like I have struck a vein of pure gold is replaced by remembrance. I envy those who will soon be reading Ohio and their thrill of discovery.Ohio will be released August 21st. I received advance reading copies from the publisher through NetGalley and Shelf Awareness. Why both? I entered the Shelf Awareness, but thought I was unlikely to win, so I requested at NetGalley and I was lucky because this book is going to be on my all-time favorites list for a long time.Ohio at Simon & SchusterStephen Markley author siteWalter Benjamin on “The Concept of History” (The essay Dan Eaton quotes.”https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...
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  • Ava Huang
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the advanced copy!3.5 stars, actually. This book is uneven: cuttingly good when it's good and quite bad when it's bad. It's essentially about a fucked-up high school reunion--four classmates find themselves back in the small Ohio town they grew up in, each for different reasons and each haunted by different regrets. The pros: there are some really beautiful passages, and the inner lives of the characters are well-rendered and engrossing. The whole book Thanks NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the advanced copy!3.5 stars, actually. This book is uneven: cuttingly good when it's good and quite bad when it's bad. It's essentially about a fucked-up high school reunion--four classmates find themselves back in the small Ohio town they grew up in, each for different reasons and each haunted by different regrets. The pros: there are some really beautiful passages, and the inner lives of the characters are well-rendered and engrossing. The whole book is shot through with pain and nostalgia. It reminded me of A Little Life, and just like A Little Life it made me cry--I definitely broke down a bit during the part from Tina's perspective at the end. I like the way the main characters' lives are interwoven and I was touched by the ending. The cons: there are quite a few edgy teenage girl characters in this novel, and speaking from the vantage point of having been one myself, a lot of the parts of the dialogue felt like what a dude might imagine edgy teenage girls' conversation to sound like. Lisa, whom I thought was the most sympathetic character (a voracious reader! Rebellious and sharp-tongued but ultimately soft-hearted!) frequently talks about, er, certain sexual acts and body parts (like when she mentions Stacey's "beautiful little pussy") in a way that just felt unconvincing to me. Yes, teenage girls can be crude, but there's crudeness that's authentic and believable, like the characters in Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School or Sheila Heti's What Should a Person Be?, and then there's crudeness that reminds the reader that the author is, well, not a woman, and that his attempts to depict interactions between women simply fall flat at times. I guarantee you that no lesbian in existence has ever organically uttered the sentence "An American coed is the hardest kind of cunt to eat, but also the sweetest." I also didn't quite buy certain aspects of Bill's character, who is anti-authority, anti-capitalist, whatever, but also just goes on and oonnn about it indeterminably. Too much telling and not enough showing.Despite this I was pulled in by the plot and the prose and finished the book in one sitting. Markley depicts desolation really well--the brief glimmers of light in lives characterized by disappointment after disappointment and bad choice after bad choice. And I like how he writes about love: the desperation of it, the fever and the crash. Ohio is worth reading.
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  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    Raw, broken, dark and tired are the memories recalled, and the town, New Cannan, Ohio is much the same, holding as little promise as it did for the characters in their youth. Recalling the friendships that fostered them, the characters all seem stunned that either they survived or still want to remember this forsaken place of their youth. These were the type of friends that make you wonder why you had friends at all, as they all seemed bent on self-destruction, but now look back with a strange d Raw, broken, dark and tired are the memories recalled, and the town, New Cannan, Ohio is much the same, holding as little promise as it did for the characters in their youth. Recalling the friendships that fostered them, the characters all seem stunned that either they survived or still want to remember this forsaken place of their youth. These were the type of friends that make you wonder why you had friends at all, as they all seemed bent on self-destruction, but now look back with a strange detached fondness.At times the stories of their lives were captivating, and at others the writing drifted off and the plot wandered taking too much effort to follow. I found reading Ohio confusing at times. Not my choice for the type of enjoyable reading I like to do. If you pick up this book, be ready for an intense read.Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read Ohio. My review is entirely my own opinion and not in any way influenced by receiving this book.
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  • Jean
    January 1, 1970
    As someone from a small town in Southwest Ohio, Markley's Ohio beautifully and tragically depicts the coming to terms with one's past. I was drawn to this book mostly to see how the author portrays my home state. He is spot on with the drug problems plaguing the marginalized areas of the rust belt. The character development makes one love and hate each character through the flashbacks to their youth and choices that were made. One excerpt that really stood out to me was "This was about disappear As someone from a small town in Southwest Ohio, Markley's Ohio beautifully and tragically depicts the coming to terms with one's past. I was drawn to this book mostly to see how the author portrays my home state. He is spot on with the drug problems plaguing the marginalized areas of the rust belt. The character development makes one love and hate each character through the flashbacks to their youth and choices that were made. One excerpt that really stood out to me was "This was about disappearing. People, she'd come to understand, disappeared all the time. The world simply opened its jaws and stalled them whole. They vanished, and unless they were rich or famous or particularly beautiful, they did so almost without comment. There was bitterness at murder, grief at accidents, and fury at suicide. But to disappear -- well, there was only mystery." This made me think about classmates that have disappeared to me and probably vice versa. I cannot wait to see this book reach the shelves. It should be well received. Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC.I'm a firm believer that all small towns have their secrets. I think Markley believes this too. And he reveals some big secrets of New Canaan, Ohio. This book begins as one young man returns home about ten years after high school gradation with a package taped under the fender of his pickup truck. On this fateful night he runs into several classmates and we learn of three who are also on missions of their own. Ohio unfolds in four chapt Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC.I'm a firm believer that all small towns have their secrets. I think Markley believes this too. And he reveals some big secrets of New Canaan, Ohio. This book begins as one young man returns home about ten years after high school gradation with a package taped under the fender of his pickup truck. On this fateful night he runs into several classmates and we learn of three who are also on missions of their own. Ohio unfolds in four chapters: Bill Ashcraft, Stacey Moore, Dan Eaton, and Tina Ross. Within those chapters we learn of their interconnected lives in high school and to the night they all reconnect in 2013. Markley shows the horrible effects of the boredom of coming of age in a small town. And sometimes boredom leads to devious acts. These devious acts are what keeps the book moving. It can also be hard to read some of the gory details, but they are necessary to the story. The prose in this book is beautiful and all the twists and turns do not feel overdone. I look forward to Markley's next novel.
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  • Michelle Beckwith
    January 1, 1970
    "Because they were just kids, and that day they drank and they danced and they laughed at the sky-blue heavens, and it really felt like anything could be fixed and anything could be forgiven."Perhaps this is a poignant foreshadowing of doom to come, but it kept me reading on. This novel is dark - and the vulgar language of the first chapter especially, may be off-putting for some, but this novel was hard to put down. The story involves a "rust belt" town, down on its luck, and features a group o "Because they were just kids, and that day they drank and they danced and they laughed at the sky-blue heavens, and it really felt like anything could be fixed and anything could be forgiven."Perhaps this is a poignant foreshadowing of doom to come, but it kept me reading on. This novel is dark - and the vulgar language of the first chapter especially, may be off-putting for some, but this novel was hard to put down. The story involves a "rust belt" town, down on its luck, and features a group of high schoolers struggling to find their way amidst the chaos. The follow up as their paths diverge and reconnect is well structured and intriguing. I craved more moments of levity, but the realism is profound. The voice of an abused teen is perhaps one of the most clear and heartbreaking narratives I have ever read.Fans of "White Fur" by Jardine Libaire will appreciate the cadence and content of Stephen Markley's new work.
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  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    Author Stephen Markley has attempted to grasp the confounding impulses of Millenial lives and the early decades of this new century and create a major theme of loss and regret. In OHIO, he is mostly successful; there is no question he creates a picture of this current era and its early adult population with amazing clarity and insight. His focus on the rust belt and its citizens leaves us with no sense of hope, though. If this is our present, our future is grim. This is a fascinating tale, as mu Author Stephen Markley has attempted to grasp the confounding impulses of Millenial lives and the early decades of this new century and create a major theme of loss and regret. In OHIO, he is mostly successful; there is no question he creates a picture of this current era and its early adult population with amazing clarity and insight. His focus on the rust belt and its citizens leaves us with no sense of hope, though. If this is our present, our future is grim. This is a fascinating tale, as much for what is missing from it as for what is revealed. Some of the writing is breathtaking and memorable; Markley is truly gifted. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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  • Kayo
    January 1, 1970
    Certainly not a favorite. This book was so wordy, it wasn't a fun read. Thanks to publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
  • Michelle Hart
    January 1, 1970
    expansive, garrulous, important. if franzen had written the corrections in 2017, it would be this book, and i mean that in the best way.
  • jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    thinking about this cage he lived in, this prison where it felt like he'd spent the entirety of his life, cradle to grave, measuring the distance between his most modest hopes and all the cheap regret he actually ended up living. you passed your time in the cage, he figured, by clinging pointlessly and desperately to an endless series of unfinished sorrows. stephen markley's editor, in pitching his author's debut novel, ohio, described it as "read[ing] like a springsteen song." believe it or no thinking about this cage he lived in, this prison where it felt like he'd spent the entirety of his life, cradle to grave, measuring the distance between his most modest hopes and all the cheap regret he actually ended up living. you passed your time in the cage, he figured, by clinging pointlessly and desperately to an endless series of unfinished sorrows. stephen markley's editor, in pitching his author's debut novel, ohio, described it as "read[ing] like a springsteen song." believe it or not, the comparison is rather apt (think somewhere between the haunting desolation and violence of the nebraska album, the inescapable small town ties and frustrated futures of the river, the economic wasteland and gutted lives from the ghost of tom joad, and the betrayals and indifferences of devils and dust). markley's first novel is a sprawling, unflinching, and arresting work of fiction. as imperfect as all debuts perhaps must be, ohio's missteps are surprisingly few and are easily overshadowed by its inescapable gravitas and emotional import. this is a novel of right now, america in 2018—and it ain't real pretty (lest you haven't been paying attention at all).set in the current decade, markley's ohio is a rust belt tale of loss in all its forms. wars (continue to) rage overseas while the stateside decimation of lives goes on unabated: suicide, ptsd and the neglect of veterans, drug addiction and overdose, economic recession and an ever-fragile market, loss of decent and well-paying jobs, lack of adequate mental health resources, sexual violence, toxic masculinity, and a burgeoning political movement based on racial intolerance (with the looming specter of irreversible environmental catastrophe never far away). ohio doesn't so much paint a bleak portrait as it does capture and translate its disparate parts into a fictional foray.markley's characters each struggle with their own personal demons, shame, and shattered hopes. leaving high school, they all must contend with a world that turned out to be anything other than what the so-called american dream had long promised could be their due. ohio's plot weaves and wends, eventually tying all of the elements together... with shocking violence forever and inescapably binding the lives of its survivors. an indictment of our current milieu and the horrifying, inexplicable disregard of human lives that has come to characterize our present, markley offers up our modern cultural ugliness in a narrative impossible to ignore.we live in a dark timeline and whether it passes sooner or later remains to be seen. ohio, though a novel, is as much an incrimination as it is a chronicle. lives throughout the land are mired in desperation, longing, and despair—and markley sees right through the all of the nationalistic, jingoistic, hopeful sound bite bullshit. that said, ohio isn't exactly an angry novel, for it's certainly no pedantic polemic. there's a tenderness, even a yearning to markley's work, which contrasts sharply with the treachery and disillusionment that pervades beyond his pages. with empathy and compassion (and indeed a measured dose of righteous indignation), markley has offered for our consideration a glimpse of the ongoing and all-consuming anxiety and anguish which color so many american lives of late. it's a painful (yet beautifully written) story for an age of widespread suffering. ohio is all of us; right here, right now. he dreamt of how his and every other story would end in shame. he pictured earth after the profiteers had finished carving up every last shard. the planet would go dark, and every animal would devour itself or fall, pale and listless, into a black acid sea. the oceans would boil away, and eventually this rock of humble miracles would go silent. spend the rest of time adrift in its slot of space, the land gray and ashen like a crater, and nothing would notice or remember what had gone on here. it was as inevitable as the next drink he would take. he thought of all that he'd lost and tried to summon his friends—their faces, their voices, their holy souls entombed in his despair. he could wish that the dead only waited patiently off stage, their makeup still on, longing for salvation when they'd take their bows. he could let his memories be the noose from which he'd swing at dusk. 4.5 stars (nearly a full 5, on account of it being a debut)
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  • Lou Jacobs
    January 1, 1970
    Move over Spinoza! Stephen Markley in his Debut Novel has tackled both the "Meaning Of Life" and "Coming of Age" motif. His platform involves four high school friends haphazardly returning to their rustbelt home of New Canaan, Ohio .... some who refer to as "Bumfuck, USA" The town has fallen on hard times since "9/11" and slid into a slow progressive dissolution. The country is wallowing in the Iraq and Afghanstan war and recession. The four classmates find themselves drawn "home" in 2013 for a Move over Spinoza! Stephen Markley in his Debut Novel has tackled both the "Meaning Of Life" and "Coming of Age" motif. His platform involves four high school friends haphazardly returning to their rustbelt home of New Canaan, Ohio .... some who refer to as "Bumfuck, USA" The town has fallen on hard times since "9/11" and slid into a slow progressive dissolution. The country is wallowing in the Iraq and Afghanstan war and recession. The four classmates find themselves drawn "home" in 2013 for a diverse set of circumstances. The four principals are Bill Ashcraft, although an athlete and friend of most is known for his early activist rabid beliefs .... only later to become an addict of both drugs and alcohol ... he finds himself returning home as essentially a "drug mule". Stacey Moore, now a doctoral candidate returns to confront the mother of her first female lover. Dan Eaton... an always shy and sensitive teenager, returns for a dinner with his now married high school sweatheart. His subsequent life has been shaped by his 3 tours of duty ... less one eye. And, lastly the pretty Tina Ross, returns for a confrontation with her brief boyfriend and football captain, Todd Beaufort - as well as the demons from her past. The story unfolds in four long sections, involving each main character ... flitting back and forth between present day an "back when" ... the previous events , thoughts and motivation are inter woven with their present mind set .... and brought into perspective are their interrelationships. In the last quarter of this tale the tone changes to a much grittier subtext. The denouement leads to an exciting murder mystery with an unexpected and satisfying conclusion. Markley weaves a complex and multidimentional tale utilizing both precise and lyrical prose. The end product is a gestalt that certainly is greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to be one of the first to enjoy this tour de force in Proof format ... in exchange for an honest review. I expect to read much more from the pen of Stephen Markley.
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