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 Fiction Review    



Mary and O'Neil
By Justin Cronin
Delta Books, 2002
Trade Paper, $12.00 (243 pages)
ISBN: 0-385-33359-5

Mary and O'Neil is a terrific book. Told from multiple points of view, the reader follows the trajectory of Mary and O'Neil's lives, individually and collectively, from the fall of 1979 through the fall of 2000. 

In the opening story, "The Last of the Leaves," Arthur and Miriam, (O'Neil's parents) are experiencing twinges of empty nest syndrome. Kay, their daughter, has married and is living in New Haven, and nineteen year old O'Neil is at college in New Hampshire. Married since their graduation from college, Arthur and Miriam have built a life together in Arthur's hometown in upstate New York. Life in a small town has taught them how to cope with their ennui in socially acceptable ways. In their solid, quiet, loving way, Arthur and Mary have taught their children how to live honorable lives. 

Mary's parents have had a less stable marriage. Her earliest memories are of an apartment in Minneapolis and a sense of lightness. She intuitively knows she'll never be alone. 

When Mary and O'Neil meet at a Philadelphia high school where they both teach, each has experienced loss. Their love for one another is a profound gift and they instinctively understand their good fortune. 

Mary and O'Neil is about the transformative and sustaining power of love. Cronin has created characters worth visiting again and again. 

Professor of English at Rice University, Justin Cronin lives with his wife and children in Houston. Mary and O'Neil won both the Pen/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize. 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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