cover image Ohio


Stephen Markley. Simon & Schuster, $26 (496p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7447-6

In Markley’s standout debut novel (following nonfiction works Publish This Book and Tales of Iceland), four former high school classmates return to their Ohio hometown to make amends. Once a bastion of steel-mill industry, New Canaan has been corroded by economic downturn and opiates; it’s pervaded by a sense of disillusionment shared by the four, whose rudderless adult lives pale alongside the blinding lights of their adolescence. Over the course of one night—interlaced with high school flashbacks—the four settle old scores and uncover some of the town’s nefarious secrets. There’s Bill Ashcraft, who drives into town to deliver a package to a familiar recipient; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate who’s sucked into the mystery of her former lover’s disappearance; veteran Dan Eaton, who returns from Afghanistan with a prosthetic eyeball and emotional wounds; and Tina Ross, who confronts a violent part of her past. As the night progresses, the long-buried truth behind a horrifying town legend takes shape, offering a window into the raw forces that shape the town and its residents. Markley’s novel is alternately disturbing and gorgeous, providing a broad view of the anxieties of a post-9/11 Middle America and the complexities of the humans who navigate them. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Aug.)