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An exquisitely moving novel of sorrow, love, and the miracle of human connections. - Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
For ten years, a secret has slept with Oliver Loving.
One moonless November night, Oliver shyly joined his classmates at Bliss County Day School's annual dance, hoping for a glimpse of the object of his unrequited affections, an enigmatic Junior named Rebekkah Sterling. But as the music played in the gymnasium, a troubled young man snuck in through the school's back door with a gun.
It was all over in a few terrible minutes; the dire decisions this man made that night, and the unspoken story he carried, forever transformed Oliver's world and tore the town of Bliss, Texas apart.
Nearly ten years later, Oliver Loving still lies wordless and paralyzed at Crockett State Assisted Care Facility, the fate of his mind unclear. Meanwhile, his parents and his brother try to cope in their own disparate self-destructive ways, whilst Rebekkah, who left Texas long ago, still refuses to speak about her own part in that tragic night.
Oliver Loving is a brilliant and beautifully told story of family, as heart-breaking as it is profound. It is a novel of the myths we make; the ties that bind us and the forces that keep us apart.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'Once upon a time there was a boy who fell through a crack in time but he didn't fall all the way.' For me this sums up the book entirely; when Oliver is shot at an annual school dance and falls into a coma, his family and the whole town are almost stuck in a time warp. Each character has questions, why did this happen? why were some people shot and not others? what happens next?how do they all carry on?
This book is particularly relevant at present due to issues with gun crime. The text was emotive and quite frankly brilliant. I almost felt as though I was part of the town; I wanted to keep reading to find the answers. The characters were also very true to life, not all of them likeable but in some ways I felt like I could relate to every single person.
I believe this is the third book by Stefan Merrill Block so I'd be intrigued to see if the others are as good as this one. Definite 'thumbs up' from me!
This book seems particularly relevant at the moment, having at it's heart a school shooting.
However, whilst the story is in some ways totally about that single event, the actual act gets very little "page time". This is not a comment piece about gun crime in schools but more of an exploration of human nature, guilt and secrets.
Oliver has been shot and spends a decade in a vegetative state. His Mum steals items for him, his Dad has turned to alcohol and his brother has fled to New York with visions of being an author. This is one extremely fractured family.
10 years on from the shooting questions have to be asked about Oliver's long term future - hope springs eternal that there is still a functioning brain in there but is there any way to unlock him?
In the answering of this question there is a mass re-examination of the past? Why did the shooter take the action he did? Why were certain people targeted/left alone? Could it have been avoided? Who actually knew what?
As it turns out there were several warning signs that were ignored and a massive secret that was the underlying reason for the violence.
The book doesn't rush to it's conclusion but takes the time to really allow us into the thoughts and psyche of all the main characters involved and it's a richer and more moving novel because of it.
A true delight
In elegant and beautiful prose, Block describes how Oliver's family splits apart after his shooting. * Psychologies * A haunting, imaginative, and deeply poignant story by one of America's great wordsmiths. I love this wise, probing and beautiful novel. * Steve Toltz, author of the Man Booker shortlisted 'A Fraction of the Whole' * The last book that made me cry: Stefan Merrill Block's Oliver Loving. Its subject matter - a young man in a coma after a school shooting, and the repercussions for his family - lends itself to tears, but the novel's real accomplishment is to avoid pulling heartstrings. * Guardian * Oliver Loving is an extraordinary novel about family and community, told with real heart and humour and style. Stefan Merrill Block has the rare ability to capture, in his literature, the secrets we store in silence - the pages of a life that are rarely read aloud. * Jonathan Lee, author of 'High Dive' * Haunting, bittersweet, addictive. * J. Courtney Sullivan, author of 'Maine' * Stefan Block's profound novel, Oliver Loving, is intricately constructed and rich with devastating, gorgeous prose. * Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of 'The Middlesteins and All Grown Up' * A dazzling, psychologically astute, scientifically engaged novel about love, loss, and the mysteries of the mind... Block dares to ask some of the most profound questions of what it means to be alive. * David Ebershoff, author of 'The Danish Girl' * An exquisitely moving novel of sorrow, love, and the miracle of human connections. * Kamila Shamsie, author of 'Home Fire' *