“Ohio” by Stephen Markley chronicles the people and events in New Canaan, a city in northeastern Ohio. This is a region ravaged by the “Great Recession,” an opioid crisis, and the wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan. It consists of four novellas, each from the perspective of one of four classmates who gathered in the summer of 2013. The book opens on October 13, 2007 with a community ceremony for a fallen soldier. It was an opportunity to decorate and reinvent the town as its residents wished it to be.
Markley’s eloquent descriptions develop a sense of place both in in geography and in society.
“Scabs of melting snow lingered in the brush of the field. Beyond it stretched the forest and the scotched, brush-wire look of the leafless trees.
An unseen narrator talks to the reader as the story is told.
“So we begin roughly six years after the parade thrown in honor of Corporal Rick Brinklan, on a fried fever of a summer night in 2013.”
The story is driven by the characters. Background information gives them depth and believability. We know them; we emphasize with them; we live with them, and we hate them. We learn who they are; what happened to them in the past, and what they are doing now. We see the political conflict, the social agendas, the patriotism, the common sense, and the human rights censorship. The horribleness of the past and oppression of the present collide to produce a depressing and confining atmosphere.
“Ohio” is a dark and heavy book while at the same time thought provoking and challenging. I received a review copy of “Ohio” from Stephen Markley, Simon and Schuster, and NetGalley. It was not an easy book to read, and at times, the narrative was unfocused. I appreciated the depth of the characters and the beauty of the narrative; I am glad that I finished it, but it was not relaxing. The over-riding questions from this book remain, Can you go home again? Would you want to? Would they want you back?