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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 sh 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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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 sh 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.

30 review for Ohio

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    4 Stars. Four former friends converge on the town they grew up in: New Canaan, Ohio. Bound together for better or worse, each have their own reasons for returning and each person’s story intertwines in a way that is dark, evocative and simply jaw-dropping. This town is desolate, depressed and ravaged by war. They have nothing to give, except for their opinions and those are in abundance. Alcohol and drugs run rampant with addiction on the rise. People drive cars that are 20 years old, dealerships 4 Stars. Four former friends converge on the town they grew up in: New Canaan, Ohio. Bound together for better or worse, each have their own reasons for returning and each person’s story intertwines in a way that is dark, evocative and simply jaw-dropping. This town is desolate, depressed and ravaged by war. They have nothing to give, except for their opinions and those are in abundance. Alcohol and drugs run rampant with addiction on the rise. People drive cars that are 20 years old, dealerships and factories are shut down and the only place to shop is Walmart. It’s Rock and Rock, it’s anarchy, it’s life. Back in High School, there was nothing to do besides taking lots of drugs, talking sh*t, getting laid and getting into trouble. These former friends did their fare share. Bill Ashcraft is high when he rolls into to The Cane, and I don’t mean high on life. He is a man on a mission and he is counting down the seconds. Stacey Moore arrives in town hoping to find an old friend. She gets more than she bargained for. Dan Eaton’s short life haunts him. If only forgetting his past was an option. Tina Ross comes to New Canaan with something on her mind. Her High School experience was unlike the others. When these four collide, there are fireworks. For most of us, High School still feels like yesterday. The friendships, the rivalries, the memories. This is true for Bill, Stacey, Dan and Tina, as well as for a few others, whose lives are intrinsically entwined with theirs. “Ohio” by Stephen Markley is a novel like no other, yet it reads like real life: some cussing, some church going, some laughter, some tears - all the while the storylines whirling, like air through a wind turbine, converting wind to energy. This is a novel to savor. It is beautiful, disastrous and heart-wrenching all at once. It is literary fiction at its absolute best and it should not be missed. Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Stephen Markley for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Published on NetGalley, Goodreads and Twitter on 9.5.18.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Ohio by Stephen Markley is a 2018 Simon & Schuster publication. New Canaan, Ohio The Rust Belt- By now the plight of those living in a what is commonly known as ‘The Rust Belt", is etched into our consciousness. A marginalized area simmering in hostility, hammered by a stubborn economic depression, and an unprecedented epidemic opiate crisis. This atmosphere is more in the forefront than in the background as Stephen Markley captures the mentality of those born and raised in this environment. Fo Ohio by Stephen Markley is a 2018 Simon & Schuster publication. New Canaan, Ohio The Rust Belt- By now the plight of those living in a what is commonly known as ‘The Rust Belt", is etched into our consciousness. A marginalized area simmering in hostility, hammered by a stubborn economic depression, and an unprecedented epidemic opiate crisis. This atmosphere is more in the forefront than in the background as Stephen Markley captures the mentality of those born and raised in this environment. Four high school friends, all of whom took a different path in life, all of them haunted by actions, decisions, and memories of the past, compounded by their current day realities, return home at the same time, with shocking results. The novel begins in 2007 with the funeral of former football star Rick Brinklan, killed in Iraq. This surreal parade sets the stage quite effectively as the author leads the reader quickly to 9/11- the event that cements a ‘before and after’ time frame for our main characters. Separated into four segments, giving each character the power of the first person narrative to describe their youthful experiences, the angst of needing to belong, the compulsion to express individuality, or their forced conformity. All four voices are connected by their upbringing, their history, and their knowledge of certain crimes, their mistakes and regrets. Their shared memories, especially centered around rumors of and evidence of certain events that took place in high school, still binds them. But, the unspoken jealousies and competitions build to a point that eventually boils over, the consequences that follow them into adulthood, and will eventually bring terrible tragedy, which now begs for justice. This is a very impressive debut novel. It is thought provoking, with very strong characterizations, and vivid depictions of time and place. It is, however, very laborious, and verbose, perhaps in need of a more aggressive editor. Despite some clunky sections, the author’s prose is magnificent. In my opinion the mystery is not the most prominent element of this book even though it is firmly placed in that category. In fact, I wondered at times, if the author intended to write a true mystery or was using it as a means to an end, with a fictionalized social commentary being the ultimate goal. Yet, at the end of the day, there is a mystery, one that took me by surprise, the outcome of which never really crossed my mind, as my attention was diverted by the rich characterizations. The story eventually merges the four individual segments with a surprising turn of events. Some of the vignettes, if you will, reminded me of many typical small town scenarios, not just those who have come under such intense scrutiny as of late. I live in a small town in Texas, surrounded by even smaller towns, some which have dried up the same way those in the heavily maligned rust belt. Factories closed, drugs took over, bored teens did what bored teens do, creating cliques and fiefdoms, and in a football obsessed mindset- similar crimes are committed, overlooked and unreported. Some are trapped in a vicious, never ending cycle going back generations with no end in sight, and others got away only to find themselves right back where they started, or curiously enough, unable to find contentment in any other way of life. Stiff conservative values, hard wired patriotism, and God and country still rule in the hearts and minds of small town America- and God help you if you go against the grain with sexual identity or liberal leanings. My point being that the rust belt in not unique in this. My next point is – don’t stereotype- of presume this is a searing portrait of the entire state of Ohio- despite the book’s title. The story takes a very long and rambling way around to linking the threads together, perhaps too long if the goal was to keep the reader invested in the mystery elements. But, if you want to get a very realistic look at the issues that still very much divide our country, dissect the long road leading to this point; if you want to see why there is such a fierce loyalty to this way of life, or if you just enjoy strong, well- drawn characters, placed in a dense and gritty atmosphere- and don’t mind depending on those characters to carry you through to the ultimate moment of truth- then the mystery, which doesn’t come on strong until the bitter end, will be worth the extended wait. The book is a riveting combination of narratives, quite absorbing, albeit violent and pretty darned bleak and melancholy. So, my only caution to readers is to keep in mind that small towns everywhere suffer some of these same plights, these exact same attitudes, and personalities, but that is not a rebuke of all the residents, or the state in which they are located and hope the urge to group everyone together in the blame game will be avoided. Wisely, the author added diversity to the story, which hopefully will help to combat strict preconceived notions about rural or blue- collar areas. However, it would serve us all well, from small communities to large cities, from the east to the west, and all points in between, to step outside our own insular world to consider the challenges and fears of others. Compassion may begin at home, but it doesn’t have to stop there - it is limitless. 4 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I picked this up because someone compared it to The Big Chill, one of my favorite movies of all time. The book starts with a prelude, a stream of consciousness narrative during a parade in memory of Rick, who was killed Iraq. The book then jumps 6 years to 2013. Then it divides into four parts, each told from the perspective of a different character returning home for their own reasons. But each was a school mate of the others and have a history from those days. The writing here is gorgeous. I r I picked this up because someone compared it to The Big Chill, one of my favorite movies of all time. The book starts with a prelude, a stream of consciousness narrative during a parade in memory of Rick, who was killed Iraq. The book then jumps 6 years to 2013. Then it divides into four parts, each told from the perspective of a different character returning home for their own reasons. But each was a school mate of the others and have a history from those days. The writing here is gorgeous. I realized I was highlighting phrases almost every other page. “We begin with history’s dogs howling, suffering in every last nerve and muscle.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone able to turn a phrase like Markley. Which isn’t to say this is an easy read. When you’re into Bill’s brain, it can seem down right twisted. And when Dan remembers his time in the army, it hit me like a fist to the gut. And Tina’s section will just make you cry. This book delves into the issues of the rust belt. Drugs abound. The recession is still in existence here, years after the rest of the country has recovered. Hope seems to be a forgotten concept. “New Canaan looked like the microcosm poster child of middle American angst.” This isn’t an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. At times, it's so dark, so brutal, I had to put it down. It also needed a better editing job, as it rambled at times and I had trouble remaining focused. It goes back and forth between the present and memories of high school. And that ending! OMG. In the end, I’m torn on how to rate this. This really needed to be tightened up. In places, it’s a total mess. In others, it’s brilliant. I’m willing to bet it’s going to generate a lot of attention and excitement. My thanks to netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance copy of this novel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 4.5 Stars ”Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That's how it goes Everybody knows “Everybody knows that the boat is leaking Everybody knows that the captain lied Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died Everybody talking to their pockets Everybody wants a box of chocolat !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 4.5 Stars ”Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That's how it goes Everybody knows “Everybody knows that the boat is leaking Everybody knows that the captain lied Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died Everybody talking to their pockets Everybody wants a box of chocolates And a long-stem rose Everybody knows” --Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Sharon Robinson Unrelenting 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 2018 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Everything in life depends on the decisions that you make, some more important than others. Sometimes the most innocuous decision has the greatest ramifications and effect on our lives. Ohio by Stephen Markley is a fictional account of a town that prosperity has forgotten. New Canaan, Ohio is a town where the effects of war, drugs, suicide, unemployment and a host of other epidemic problems have left it without hope. New Canaan represents what has befallen Ohio and so many Midwestern rust belt tow Everything in life depends on the decisions that you make, some more important than others. Sometimes the most innocuous decision has the greatest ramifications and effect on our lives. Ohio by Stephen Markley is a fictional account of a town that prosperity has forgotten. New Canaan, Ohio is a town where the effects of war, drugs, suicide, unemployment and a host of other epidemic problems have left it without hope. New Canaan represents what has befallen Ohio and so many Midwestern rust belt towns. Tragedy one is followed by tragedy two which is followed by tragedy three and so on. Prosperity did not stop in, it just passed by. Compounding the external woes are the woes inflicted by friends, family, classmates and neighbors. Markley's book focuses on the stories of four high school friends ten years after graduation. This dark and sad tale of four separate lives is the story of how life is really a game of inches. The feeling that I got from all four stories is that while each story is unique and different, in life we face the consequences from one bad decision, one "what if", one regret, one time we didn't listen to our conscience, the one time "I should have said something", the one time I didn't speak up or the one time I went down the other road. Ohio is a long, dark, depressing, sad book that doesn't leave you feeling better at the end. But this isn't a book that was meant to. Reflect, contemplate and discuss would be the goals of this book. I felt a profound sense of sadness and hopelessness after reading this book. Do not try and read this book in one sitting, you will not appreciate it for what it is. In order to gain the most out of this Markley's gritty, brutal but brilliant prose, the reader needs to digest this book in stages. Perhaps this book serves to remind us that failed dreams do linger. I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. #Netgalley #Ohio

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mackey

    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.  

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Where to begin! At the beginning, I guess. Ohio is a sprawling novel that’s divided into four sections, each told from the point of view of one of four high school classmates all reappearing in their hometown of New Canaan, Ohio, on a night ten years after their graduation. The first section, centering on an addict and left-wing activist named Bill Ashcraft, is one of the most overwritten things I’ve ever read. (I’ll include some choice passages at the end of my review.) The vast array of adject Where to begin! At the beginning, I guess. Ohio is a sprawling novel that’s divided into four sections, each told from the point of view of one of four high school classmates all reappearing in their hometown of New Canaan, Ohio, on a night ten years after their graduation. The first section, centering on an addict and left-wing activist named Bill Ashcraft, is one of the most overwritten things I’ve ever read. (I’ll include some choice passages at the end of my review.) The vast array of adjectives, metaphors, and similes not only made this section a slog, they eventually made me downright hostile toward the book. My patience wore thin and my eye-rolling muscles became fatigued. Fortunately, this section did finally end, and when the next sections were somewhat less overwritten, I came to understand that all of the weird imagery was (I guess?) meant to be the product of Bill’s drugged mind. This was a relief. The second and third sections of the book, one from the point of view of a grad student who’d recently come out as gay and the other from the point of view of a veteran of three tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, were moderately less infuriating than the first, but all three sections did share one flaw: an overkill amount of reminiscing about high school. I did appreciate the way all this reminiscing from various points of view eventually revealed all the major plot points, but it was beyond tiresome to hear about their high school goings-on from three different characters. Further, the idea that all of them would still be so obsessed with high school ten years later strained credibility. I actually had to take a break in the midst of the third section because I couldn’t take the tedium anymore. When I picked the book back up again and moved on to the fourth and final section, told from the point of view of a woman who’d stayed in the area after graduation, I finally learned what the point of the whole thing was: the woman who was the focus of this last section (view spoiler)[had been drugged and gang-raped repeatedly in high school by her boyfriend and his friends, abetted by another female student; it had all been videotaped and shown around; and no one had done anything about it. (hide spoiler)] To say I was displeased by this turn of events is an understatement. It felt like Markley needed something dramatic to hang his novel on, so, sure, why not (view spoiler)[have a character repeatedly drugged and gang-raped (hide spoiler)] ? Hey, every book needs some kind of dramatic incident, so why not? Why not? Maybe because some of us are totally sick of this being used as a cheap plot point. Maybe because most of the other high school girls in the book are depicted as total sex freaks even at age 15, so I already didn’t trust this author’s portrayals of women and, by the time the fourth section rolled around, I had no confidence in his ability to handle this serious topic with finesse. And I was right. If finesse is what you want, you’re not going to find it anywhere in Ohio. As someone who comes from a depressed, blue-collar nowheresville myself, I was really looking forward to reading this novel. Its publisher seems to see it as some kind of epic work that will explain the rise of Trump in working-class areas. But the fact is that this book is completely lacking in any kind of nuance and adds absolutely nothing new, or even particularly true, to the conversation. It reads as if Markley left his hometown, never really went back, but still sees himself as an expert in the area, capable of speaking for the people who still live there. But he isn’t. If it accomplishes nothing else, Ohio definitely proves that. I won this ARC in a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you to the publisher. *** As promised, here are some of my favorite/least favorite passages from Ohio: • Page 68: An enormous mural looked out at the road: a ferocious black jaguar bursting through a wall of orange, fangs bared, grapefruit eyes gleaming with savage Darwinian murder. MURDEROUS! You know, like a grapefruit. • Page 106: Her eyes still floated in a splash of freckles like two sapphires tossed onto a white-sand beach. You mean emeralds, dude. You’ve already told us multiple times that her eyes are green. This is one of the many hazards of describing everything excessively: sometimes you get things wrong. • Page 109: The coffee table was a mess of Us Weeklys, a plate of half-finished, lipstick-red spaghetti going cold, and her inhaler, right next to an ashtray with two fresh cigarette stubs. “I need something quick for dinner tonight. I know, I’ll make a plate of lipstick-red spaghetti” is something I think we have all said at one time or another. • Also page 109: Bill patted his tender flesh the color of massacred civilians. In his defense, “lipstick-red” was already taken. • Page 153: Her boots clopped over the street like a horse with two amputations. I don’t really think… you know what, just forget it. • Page 161: The cursive script ran up the inside of her forearm from the spot where the Romans put the nails in Jesus’s wrists to just short of the elbow pit. One, just saying “wrist” would have gotten the job done. Two, the possessive of “Jesus” takes only an apostrophe, not an apostrophe-s. Even spellcheck knows that. Hopefully someone fixed that everywhere before the pub date. Three, what’s with always saying “elbow pit” and “knee pit”? Are those real things people say? Help me out, Ohioans! • Page 233: "My dad’s just my dad—I could probably show up with a dead hooker in my trunk, and he would beam at my resourcefulness with a club hammer." This was said by a female character to her former high school music teacher, who she’d just seen for the first time in ten years. • Page 277: The sky angled like a carnival game, deathwatch blue, while a single oil tanker of a cloud passed overhead. Someone get the WD-40—the switch on the random simile generator is stuck in the “on” position! • Also page 277: he got a feeling like only an anorexic housefly could navigate between them. There just had to have been some other way to express this. • Page 324: She took a tissue from her bedside and held it with only the tips of her fingers, delicately, as if feeling a ball of skin. A BALL OF SKIN? A BALL OF SKIN? You really could have stopped at “the tips of her fingers” and we would have gotten the point. I mean, really—a ball of skin? A ball of skin?!? The prosecution rests. UPDATE: October 17, 2018. A couple of days ago I spotted a finished copy of Ohio on a bookstore shelf and checked to see if the "ball of skin" passage made it into the final version of the book. It did!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    "Riding back To where the highway met Dead end tracks The ground is now cement and glass And far away Heal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohio Green green youth What about the sweetness we knew What about what's good what's true From those days Can't count to All the lovers I've burned through So why do I still burn for you I can't say Sorry that I could never love you back I could never care enough in these last days Heal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohi0" – Carry Me Ohio- Lyrics by Mark Kozelek I’m not sur "Riding back To where the highway met Dead end tracks The ground is now cement and glass And far away Heal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohio Green green youth What about the sweetness we knew What about what's good what's true From those days Can't count to All the lovers I've burned through So why do I still burn for you I can't say Sorry that I could never love you back I could never care enough in these last days Heal 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tucker

    “Ohio” is fiction that probes issues that have received a lot of news attention the past two years - marginalization, loss of hope, disillusionment, economic decline, and drug addiction in middle America. The personal fallout is seen through the eyes of four main characters in their twenties, with flashbacks to their high school years, who unexpectedly reunite one fateful night in New Canaan, Ohio. By examining these issues through fiction, where individual experiences and emotions are at the fo “Ohio” is fiction that probes issues that have received a lot of news attention the past two years - marginalization, loss of hope, disillusionment, economic decline, and drug addiction in middle America. The personal fallout is seen through the eyes of four main characters in their twenties, with flashbacks to their high school years, who unexpectedly reunite one fateful night in New Canaan, Ohio. By examining these issues through fiction, where individual experiences and emotions are at the forefront, it allows readers to gain a greater understanding of the reality of their impact on people’s lives, hopes, and dreams. These are hard times and there are no easy answers or simple solutions. Markley has written literary fiction at it’s finest, and it’s also important fiction. It shines a thought-provoking spotlight on what life in currently like for many people in America, particularly in the Heartland. Intensely realistic, epic in scope, and exceptionally written, this is a compelling story of broken people and a broken society. “Ohio” is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review..

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    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

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bam

    The setting for this gritty novel is New Canaan, Ohio, a small town in northeast Ohio, hard hit by the economic downturn, whose major industries are long gone and the biggest employer is Walmart. The heroes of the town have been the high school football players who could pretty much get away with anything...and often do. But these kids seem to be cursed: one commits suicide; one OD's and accidentally sets fire to his apartment building, killing a couple of newlyweds; one dies serving his country The setting for this gritty novel is New Canaan, Ohio, a small town in northeast Ohio, hard hit by the economic downturn, whose major industries are long gone and the biggest employer is Walmart. The heroes of the town have been the high school football players who could pretty much get away with anything...and often do. But these kids seem to be cursed: one commits suicide; one OD's and accidentally sets fire to his apartment building, killing a couple of newlyweds; one dies serving his country in the Middle East; and one leaves town abruptly, never to be seen again. On a fateful night some ten years after graduating, four classmates return to 'The Cane' and these are their stories, told in separate chapters, but constantly intertwining. Stephen Markley reveals much of what has gone wrong with our society in these pages: the opiod/drug problem, crushing economic pressures, divisive political upheaval, unpopular wars, violence, the glorifying of youth, and more deeply, the crisis of faith. Some of this is very hard to read: some aspects will horrify you and some will even bring you to tears. But undoubtedly, this writer is a major new talent. I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. This is a book I won't soon forget.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

    Four classmates come back to the hometown of New Canaan one summer. Bill Ashcraft is an alcoholic and drug abuser and has completely lost his way. Stacey Moore comes back to confront the mother of her former girlfriend. Dan Eaton is a veteran of the Afghanistan War and has never forgotten his first love. Tina Ross has something to settle with the former captain of the football team. There are actually four novellas in this book, each involving one of the above characters and all interacting with Four classmates come back to the hometown of New Canaan one summer. Bill Ashcraft is an alcoholic and drug abuser and has completely lost his way. Stacey Moore comes back to confront the mother of her former girlfriend. Dan Eaton is a veteran of the Afghanistan War and has never forgotten his first love. Tina Ross has something to settle with the former captain of the football team. There are actually four novellas in this book, each involving one of the above characters and all interacting with one character, the deceased classmate, Rick, who was killed in Afghanistan. This book has all the markings of a book I should have loved. It’s a truly tragic story and I had read such good things about the book. But I truly did not like it. Before I chose this book, I had read that the author uses beautiful language but any beautiful language used is negated by the constant course language used by the characters. I had read that it was an emotional book but to be emotional for me, a book needs to have characters the reader cares about. I did not like these characters and couldn’t relate to their problems. This book seems to be a social commentary on how 9/11 left our country and its people in shambles. I don’t believe we’re all suffering from PTSD as this book indicates. It’s almost written as a dystopian novel, creating a horrible, destroyed world I’m not familiar with. It seemed to me that most of the characters, though certainly not all, used 9/11 and the war as an excuse for not getting their lives together. I soon tired of reading about their self-indulgences involving alcohol, drugs and sex and sickened of them wallowing in their self-misery. Not recommended. This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This novel is set in a small town in northeastern Ohio, where four friends return home in 2013 and find there are ongoing ripples and consequences from their schooldays. The author gets small town midwestern culture right and writes deeply about the individual characters. This could practically be a quartet of character study novels. If I had a final copy I would put a bunch of quotes here because I found myself marking pages frequently. Thanks to the publisher for approving my ARC request in Ede This novel is set in a small town in northeastern Ohio, where four friends return home in 2013 and find there are ongoing ripples and consequences from their schooldays. The author gets small town midwestern culture right and writes deeply about the individual characters. This could practically be a quartet of character study novels. If I had a final copy I would put a bunch of quotes here because I found myself marking pages frequently. Thanks to the publisher for approving my ARC request in Edelweiss. The book came out 21 August 2018.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I made myself finish Ohio by Stephen Markley. It is well written, beautiful writing at times, and the characters are well drawn and the theme timely and the plot is part a mystery and part a character study of a whole cadre of classmates. But it is dark, gruesome, shocking, and violent, the characters struggling with horrible situations and issues. I stopped reading it several times. I was sure I was going to walk away, unwilling to spend more time with these broken people. And when I finally did I made myself finish Ohio by Stephen Markley. It is well written, beautiful writing at times, and the characters are well drawn and the theme timely and the plot is part a mystery and part a character study of a whole cadre of classmates. But it is dark, gruesome, shocking, and violent, the characters struggling with horrible situations and issues. I stopped reading it several times. I was sure I was going to walk away, unwilling to spend more time with these broken people. And when I finally did finish the novel, my stomach was in knots and I felt slightly ill. Graphic sex and self-abuse and violence and all kinds of stuff going on which I usually avoid like the plague.. And these kids, ten years out of high school but trapped by what happened in those few years, destroyed by it. They don't move on, they can't move on. The beautiful ones are destroyed and the less beautiful ones who love them are destroyed. I am so destroyed, I wish I had not finished the book. Which perhaps shows how successful the novel is-- I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    DNF!! I really wanted to like this book. Being from Northeast Ohio, I was so excited and thought I’d relate to this book but unfortunately I couldn’t get through this book. I made it to around 50% through and couldn’t get into the characters or the writing style. This book just wasn’t for me. Special thanks to NetGalley for allowing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book is gritty, real, and will hit you hard like a gut punch. All the stars for this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    2 stars This 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 stars This 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    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 does next.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Thank you so much Simon and Schuster for providing my free copy of OHIO by Stephen Markley - all opinions are my own. This book essentially reads like four novellas strung together by a common thread of place and time. It’s an incredibly brilliant, concordantly constructed debut that I cannot stop thinking about. The place is OHIO and the time is post-9/11, where Markley brings to life the twenty-something-year-old characters affected by the death of their friend Rick, who was killed in Iraq. In t Thank you so much Simon and Schuster for providing my free copy of OHIO by Stephen Markley - all opinions are my own. This book essentially reads like four novellas strung together by a common thread of place and time. It’s an incredibly brilliant, concordantly constructed debut that I cannot stop thinking about. The place is OHIO and the time is post-9/11, where Markley brings to life the twenty-something-year-old characters affected by the death of their friend Rick, who was killed in Iraq. In their hometown of New Canaan, the story centers on an evening where a seasoned drug addict delivers an unidentified package, a war veteran, Dan, tries to connect with an old love, Tina tries to avenge her abuser from high school, and Stacey wants to confront her homophobic mother. This spectacular book touches on economic turmoil, opioid addiction, abuse, self-harm, the physical and mental anguish of war, and confronting the past. OHIO is beautifully written, raw, honest, and heartbreaking. And while the title suggests it’s about an entire state, I believe it’s more suited to the specific areas where these problems currently exist. Markley takes a long hard look at the people affected by the economy and opioid crisis so it’s gloom and doom but relevant and necessary. The book is just over 480 pages so it’s a commitment and I would suggest taking your time. OHIO is meticulously written with deep characterization about important social issues - highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jamele (BookswithJams)

    This one. Not for the faint of heart. And I most certainly needed this Pinot to get through the end. But man, it is gripping, gritty, sad, and well worth the time. I just finished and it will definitely be on my mind for weeks to come. I had heard good things but seriously had no idea what I was about to read. This is a bit of a look-back on high school life in small town Ohio, as four former classmates return to their hometown for different reasons one summer evening. The book is told in four p This one. Not for the faint of heart. And I most certainly needed this Pinot to get through the end. But man, it is gripping, gritty, sad, and well worth the time. I just finished and it will definitely be on my mind for weeks to come. I had heard good things but seriously had no idea what I was about to read. This is a bit of a look-back on high school life in small town Ohio, as four former classmates return to their hometown for different reasons one summer evening. The book is told in four parts, one from each person’s point of view of their journey and reason for being there that night. The author sets up brilliant transitions between each part, and running throughout the book, subtle at first and then building as you move to the end, is a mystery that one of the individuals is determined to solve. Thanks to NetGalley for the electronic copy to review. All opinions above are my own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Van

    Not an Ohioan myself but I can so relate to the story. Even details aside, I think many of these scenes are relatable also in other states and foreign western countries. Must believe Stephen Marley will have a major breakthrough with this book - as a fictional writer, I mean. Many thanks for constructing this narrative in a relatable and honest manner. Important storyline and details. Thanks.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    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, 2018 Genre: Fiction | Mystery Print Length: 496 pages Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    I received this for free from NetGalley in exchange for my review. This ambitious novel tries to capture the struggles of a generation in a small Ohio town as they grow into adulthood following 9/11. War, drug use, financial struggle, friendship, and guilt play out through a small group of high school friends. Some situations and dialog, however, felt forced in order to make a political or cultural comment. Some sections were also hard to follow due to frequent flashback sequences. Overall, thou I received this for free from NetGalley in exchange for my review. This ambitious novel tries to capture the struggles of a generation in a small Ohio town as they grow into adulthood following 9/11. War, drug use, financial struggle, friendship, and guilt play out through a small group of high school friends. Some situations and dialog, however, felt forced in order to make a political or cultural comment. Some sections were also hard to follow due to frequent flashback sequences. Overall, though, this is a good look at small town America over the last few years.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    With raw and gritty writing, Stephen Markley shows you small town life after 9/11, after the crash, and at the start of an epidemic. Taking place in Ohio, also the title of the book, I felt a special connection to this book and felt I needed to give it my undivided attention, more so than any other. This is a book about my state. My home. And I bet most of you don’t even know how to properly pronounce Cattawa or have ever heard of Titusville, which coincidentally I am about 20 minutes from as I With raw and gritty writing, Stephen Markley shows you small town life after 9/11, after the crash, and at the start of an epidemic. Taking place in Ohio, also the title of the book, I felt a special connection to this book and felt I needed to give it my undivided attention, more so than any other. This is a book about my state. My home. And I bet most of you don’t even know how to properly pronounce Cattawa or have ever heard of Titusville, which coincidentally I am about 20 minutes from as I write this review. So there’s that. This book is bold. Riveting. If you’re looking for your next beach read, this ain’t it. Markley’s writing is unlike anything I’ve ever read. He puts you in this small Ohio town, New Canaan, and you see firsthand how truly messed up life got for some after 9/11. Some died for us, while some died because life was too much. Ohio is a heavy and accurate portrayal of life after the early 2000s. Many of us from that time and that area can without a doubt name a person or two who had the same fate as some in this book. When I say the writing is gritty, I mean it. Some parts are so dark, it became difficult to read at times and some parts were so tragic, you felt the pain of the characters around you. But you know what? Life is gritty, life is dark, and Ohio shows you just how bad it got, and probably still is, for some people. So grab a beer or whiskey, or a cup of black coffee and settle in with Ohio in the evenings. Give this book the time and attention it deserves. I received an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    3.5 rounded up. Author Stephen Markley is a keen observer of people in difficult situations and adept at setting the atmosphere of small town America. He explores the complexities of relationships, community and politics with well-crafted insightful words and descriptions, even if at times these words were crude or off-putting. I would have preferred a bit more editing of the descriptors; some were too lengthy and I would find myself skimming. Markley clearly sees things from a fresh and unique p 3.5 rounded up. Author Stephen Markley is a keen observer of people in difficult situations and adept at setting the atmosphere of small town America. He explores the complexities of relationships, community and politics with well-crafted insightful words and descriptions, even if at times these words were crude or off-putting. I would have preferred a bit more editing of the descriptors; some were too lengthy and I would find myself skimming. Markley clearly sees things from a fresh and unique perspective, down to the finest details. This book has been placed on my "I'll think about this book for quite some time” bookshelf. I was impressed this is a debut novel but I would not recommend if you are looking for likable characters and easy-reading.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    BookExpo Adult Editor’s Buzz 2018 This is my kind of storytelling. It's gritty and real and honest and dark. Shit happens, high school shit that carries on into lives beyond. Some move on and forget, but most do not and haunted they are. I'm making this sound like a thriller but it's not at all, this is real life and it is pretty f**ed up and I loved it. This book is going to have some lovers as well as haters. I think many of my goodreads and bookish friends will not enjoy this book and we will d BookExpo Adult Editor’s Buzz 2018 This is my kind of storytelling. It's gritty and real and honest and dark. Shit happens, high school shit that carries on into lives beyond. Some move on and forget, but most do not and haunted they are. I'm making this sound like a thriller but it's not at all, this is real life and it is pretty f**ed up and I loved it. This book is going to have some lovers as well as haters. I think many of my goodreads and bookish friends will not enjoy this book and we will differ in our enjoyment of this great novel. I think the violence will shake some people too much, but the gritty darkness is what I loved about this book. The events that happen could happen anywhere to anyone. Some people let them happen to them while others created their misery by not resisting. 4.5 stars, almost five, so close, but after sleeping on this and thoughts filling my mind, I'm finding holes that leave me wondering about some things. Holes are fine when the author intends them, but I'm reluctantly downgrading .5 stars.

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