Lost in America: "Ocean State" - Socially critical novel by Stewart O'Nan
Created: 06/28/2022Updated: 07/01/2022, 16:17
By: Sven Trautwein
The stories of young women in America's run-down small towns are his métier.
Stewart O'Nan is back with a social critique.
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The first sentence of the book makes it clear what this is about: a crime.
With “Ocean State”, Stewart O'Nan presents a novel that is a characterful study of America.
It's not a classic crime thriller in the sense of a "whodunit", but includes the history of the crime.
The text gives an insight into the neglected layers of the USA in a literary manner of a high standard.
Stewart O'Nan: "Ocean State" - The Book
Stewart O'Nan "Ocean State" © Rowohlt
About sisters, mothers and daughters - and the terrible things that love can drive us to do.
A gripping crime story set on the fringes of American society.Westerly, a working-class town in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States.
High school student Birdy is killed after falling in love with the wrong person.
The perpetrator: her classmate Angel.
Both of them shared a love for Myles, the son of wealthy middle-class parents with a wonderful summer house by the sea, and the hope of escaping the lack of prospects of their own origins in this way.
The suburbs of America are the setting for Stewart O'Nan's new novel.
Raised in Pittsburgh, O'Nan knows the demise of the flagship cities of the past.
In “Ocean State” we write the year 2009. The real estate crisis has hit the country hard.
Loans could no longer be serviced in many places, and many suburbs are empty.
Hardly anyone who wants to get involved financially there.
Carol is a single mother of two girls in the middle of puberty.
Thirteen-year-old Marie and her sister Angel, who is five years older than her, grow up in difficult circumstances in a run-down house.
They struggle with everyday problems, school, financial hardship, unfulfilled love and their mother's alcohol problems.
Things seem to be looking up when Angel falls in love with Myles, whose parents are a little better off.
If it weren't for Birdy there too, who has also fallen in love with Myles.
Like Stephen King, his friend Stewart O'Nan has small town America in mind.
The lynchpin of the novel is the left-behind generation in search of themselves and financial independence.
Myles serves as a projection screen for unfulfilled love.
His parents' rarely used beach house is the sanctuary where he meets up with both Angel and Birdy.
The gulf between rich and poor widens and ultimately leads to an act that seems inevitable for Marie and her sister Angel.
Stewart O'Nan "Ocean State": My conclusion
I was deeply impressed by Stewart O'Nan's novel.
The descriptions of a generation at the bottom of society are impressive and formative.
The character developments and the unprejudiced narrative drew me in from the first chapter.
I found the change of narrative perspective successful, which doesn't relativize what happened, but tries to classify it.
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Stewart O'Nan "Ocean State"
From the American by Thomas Gunkel
2022, Rowohlt ISBN-13 978-3-498-00268-8
Price: Hardcover €24, e-book €19.99, 256 pages (different format) Order now (promotional link)
Stewart O'Nan was born in Pittsburgh in 1961 and grew up in Boston.
Before becoming an author, he worked as an aircraft engineer and studied literature.
In 1993 he received the William Faulkner Prize for his debut novel Angels in the Snow.