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Mailbox Monday #237

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  September’s host is Notorious Spinks Talks.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Renascence & Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay for $1 from the library sale.

Treasury of 23 works by American poet renowned for the lyric beauty of her early works. In addition to the title poem, this collection includes “Interim,” “Sorrow,” “Ashes of Life,” “Three Songs of Shattering,” “The Dream,” “When the Year Grows Old,” and others, including 6 sonnets. Alphabetical lists of titles and first lines.

2.  Poetic Meter & Poetic Form by Paul Fussell for 50 cents from the library sale.

The title of this book may suggest that it is designed as a latter-day Gradus ad Parnassum to teach aspiring writers to produce passable verses. It is not. It is intended to help aspiring readers deepen their sensitivity to the rhythmical and formal properties of poetry and thus heighten their pleasure and illumination as an appropriately skilled audience of an exacting art.

3. Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick for $1 from the library sale.

Nora Grey can’t remember the past five months of her life. After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told that she has been inexplicably missing for weeks, she tries to get her life back on track. So she goes to school, hangs with her best friend, Vee, and dodges her mom’s creepy new boyfriend.

But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch. Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows. And an unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing.

Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, with whom she feels a mesmerizing connection. He seems to hold all the answers…and her heart. Every minute she spends with him feels more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love. Again.

4.  His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia Macneal for 50 cents from the library sale.

World War II has finally come home to Britain, but it takes more than nightly air raids to rattle intrepid spy and expert code breaker Maggie Hope. After serving as a secret agent to protect Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, Maggie is now an elite member of the Special Operations Executive—a black ops organization designed to aid the British effort abroad—and her first assignment sends her straight into Nazi-controlled Berlin, the very heart of the German war machine. Relying on her quick wit and keen instincts, Maggie infiltrates the highest level of Berlin society, gathering information to pass on to London headquarters. But the secrets she unveils will expose a darker, more dangerous side of the war—and of her own past.

5.  Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan for 50 cents from the library sale.

Award-winning writer Stewart O’Nan has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists writing today. Now comes his finest and most complete novel to date. A year after the death of her husband, Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers her family by Lake Chautauqua in western New York for what will be a last vacation at their summer cottage. Joining is her sister-in-law, who silently mourns the sale of the lake house, and a long-lost love. Emily’s firebrand daughter, a recovering alcoholic recently separated from her husband, brings her children from Detroit. Emily’s son, who has quit his job and mortgaged his future to pursue his art, comes accompanied by his children and his wife, who is secretly heartened to be visiting the house for the last time. Memories of past summers resurface, old rivalries flare up, and love is rekindled and born anew, resulting in a timeless novel drawn, as the best writing often is, from the ebbs and flow of daily life.

What did you receive?

The Odds by Stewart O’Nan

The Odds by Stewart O’Nan is a slim volume that begins each chapter with a probability that sets the tone for the following chapter — a gimmick that is extraneous to the story he’s telling about an older couple — Marion and Art Fowler — whose marriage in on the brink of complete failure as they face insolvency and an empty nest.  Rather than prefacing each chapter with the odds of a married couple having sex during the week or the odds of getting food poisoning while on vacation, O’Nan could have allowed the decision to gamble away their life savings while on vacation in Canada speak for itself about the couple’s dire financial situation and marriage.  But this is a minor quibble.

O’Nan does a good job of demonstrating the tentative way in which each maneuvers around the other in conversation and shared space, which demonstrates the unspoken pain between them and the tentative hope that they can find something to spark a passion they thought they once had and maybe even shared.  However, through the oscillating narration between Art and Marion, readers soon discover that they have very different takes on what this Valentine’s Day trip is about, with Art hoping to save his marriage and Marion waiting for it to end so she can move on.

“They weren’t good liars, they were just afraid of the truth and what it might say about them.  They were middle class, prey to the tyranny of appearances and what they could afford, or dare, which was part of the problem.”  (page 1)

More than anything, The Odds is about deception. Art is deceiving himself that he can erase his past transgressions and right the wrongs with a Valentine’s Day trip to Niagara Falls and can remedy their financial situation with gambling. Marion is deceiving herself that Art will accept that she wants a divorce and to move forward.  We deceive ourselves about our motivations, our emotions, and our dreams, but how long can we deceive ourselves and others before there are consequences?  Midway, there is a deeply ominous feel to the book as a horse-and-carriage ride brings with it a couple tales of daredevils who needed rescuing after going over the falls and lovers who were parted by a freak thaw in 1912 that washed them away on the American side of the falls.

The Odds by Stewart O’Nan is not a typical love story, but in a way it is similar to how love stories come about, through chance and taking a risk.  In the end, we all have regrets and at times those regrets eat away at us, but how many of us would completely change our decisions and lives, giving up our children or spouses, for the unknown after so many years together?  Then again, O’Nan’s prose clearly demonstrates that even if you have regrets, you can change your luck and your direction with the one you love at your side — even against the odds.

 

This is my 12th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.  I borrowed this one from the library after reading Ti’s review at Book Chatter.  Also check out the review from Literate Housewife.