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Mary and O'Neil: Fiction

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Profound, graceful, and wise, this luminous debut novel about the love and marriage of two young teachers introduces a fresh, authoritative new voice in fiction. Each chapter becomes a window through which readers watch two people grow stronger together than apart.


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Profound, graceful, and wise, this luminous debut novel about the love and marriage of two young teachers introduces a fresh, authoritative new voice in fiction. Each chapter becomes a window through which readers watch two people grow stronger together than apart.

30 review for Mary and O'Neil: Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A wonderful story…spare, powerful and sometimes sad without being maudlin. In only 243 pages, this pint-sized novel touches on experiences that most of us will encounter in our lifetime. I liked the way the author started each of the eight “stories” in a later time period…each one focused on some major passage in the life of the main character, O’Neil Burke. It’s a character study (rather than action packed) recounting interconnected family stories with big themes such as love and marriage, agin A wonderful story…spare, powerful and sometimes sad without being maudlin. In only 243 pages, this pint-sized novel touches on experiences that most of us will encounter in our lifetime. I liked the way the author started each of the eight “stories” in a later time period…each one focused on some major passage in the life of the main character, O’Neil Burke. It’s a character study (rather than action packed) recounting interconnected family stories with big themes such as love and marriage, aging, tragedy, loss and grief. It’s beautifully written and touched me deeply because it rings so true. I picked this novel up some time ago at a used book store. What a find!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    This is a simple, tender series of stories that tell a larger, more intimate and beautiful tale about love in all it's many forms. The simple reality of this story is an eloquent, heart wrenching and rare look at every day life. Excellent. This is a simple, tender series of stories that tell a larger, more intimate and beautiful tale about love in all it's many forms. The simple reality of this story is an eloquent, heart wrenching and rare look at every day life. Excellent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    This book is just a beautiful kind of beautiful. Most of you would probably consider it a 4, but it resonated with me at this point in my life (possibly my looming 30th birthday?...*silent sobs*) The storyline revolves around O'Neil as he grows from a warm-hearted collegiate goofball into an even warmer-hearted, middle-aged goofball (now with a little more insight into life). Themes address loss/mourning, the psychology of being at adult orphan, growing older, the power of different life stages. This book is just a beautiful kind of beautiful. Most of you would probably consider it a 4, but it resonated with me at this point in my life (possibly my looming 30th birthday?...*silent sobs*) The storyline revolves around O'Neil as he grows from a warm-hearted collegiate goofball into an even warmer-hearted, middle-aged goofball (now with a little more insight into life). Themes address loss/mourning, the psychology of being at adult orphan, growing older, the power of different life stages... In other words, just under the words of the book, you can hear it's theme song--"To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season..." I awarded it the rare 5-stars because it met my criteria of changing the way I look at everyday life. Don't be confused by the title--it has almost nothing at all to do with Mary or the other narrators, except as they contribute to O'Neil. It is HIS story--although, I must say, he shares quite nicely. (If you realize this early on, you'll enjoy the book more. It took me a few chapters to get over it.) The book also contains amazing dream sequences and the most beautifully accurate account of childbirth that I have ever read (although the moment of birth was a little glossed-over). Kind of nice to go back and experience the miracle of childbirth again-- this time without all the excruciating pain. I'm quite amazed a man wrote it, frankly. Cronin is a highly metaphorical writer, in both the "little way" and the "big way" (as I call it). Almost every sentence is loaded with a metaphor - so if that's not your thing, you'll probably label this book cheesy. However, Cronin handles his metaphors in a gentle, precise way that I found extraordinarily nuanced. The book also revolves around a "big" metaphor - namely, the changing weather as a representation of the "seasons of life" (turn, turn, turn). Storm clouds heavy with snow come to represent time, age, and hard times ahead, while sunshine and springtime represent hope, happiness, and youth. The most beautiful moment of the book to me was O'Neil's realization that the seasons overlap: "The winter was snowless and mild; many of the trees were still dropping their leaves, though the autumn was long gone and the first of May's bulbs, the crocus and hyacinth, had appeared. Had he simply failed to notice it in winters past, this anachronistic overlapping of the seasons?... Later he asked a colleague, who taught science, about what he had seen. 'They're white oaks, O'Neil,' he replied... 'Didn't you know? They keep their leaves all winter.'..." (Here's hoping we can do the same, yes?) Overall, this is a complex, moving book if you enjoy the deep and metaphorical. If you don't, RUN AWAY. FAVORITE QUOTES: "God, thank you for the beauty of this time of year, the leaves on the trees by the river where I walked yesterday, thank you for the sky and earth, which you, I guess, in your wisdom, will have to cover with snow for a while, so we don't forget who's boss." (Arthur) If asked, Arthur would say he didn't so much begin his life as find it, like a wallet or a ring of keys he'd merely mislaid. The moment felt frozen, as if neither of them could leave it. Miriam would be waiting for him in the library foyer, clutching her books and papers and all her nervousness to her chest. Nowhere, at no time, has she uttered the word CANCER, nor heard it used. The breast was "affected." The mass was "palpable." The patient was "married." She, Miriam Burke, was something--someWHERE--else. O'Neil has had girlfriends before, but this... is different; he is entering the web, the matrix of a thousand details that make another person real, not just an object to be wanted. They did not seem to like one another very much, though Mary had come to understand this was common with men who lived together and were also friends. His heart expands at the sight of this happy and attractive place that exists for no reason. It is a lonely feeling, he realizes, watching your wife have a baby. With each passing hour she moves farther away from him, into a place where all her strength comes from. He drove a car to work, lived in a house twice as old as he was, looked at the stars when he cared to, feeling only the vague appreciation one gave to anything beautiful and useless and far away.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Sweeney Bowen

    A book that can make me cry is rare, and this one made me cry twice. What's most impressive to me about this novel is the fact that it manages to make the reader feel empathy for its characters without seeming to manipulate. It stacks what any person would consider awful losses on its characters, but it doesn't say, "Now, please feel sorry for them." It's so quietly moving that the feelings it solicits are genuine - at least they were for me. It's able to do this, I believe, because of Cronin's A book that can make me cry is rare, and this one made me cry twice. What's most impressive to me about this novel is the fact that it manages to make the reader feel empathy for its characters without seeming to manipulate. It stacks what any person would consider awful losses on its characters, but it doesn't say, "Now, please feel sorry for them." It's so quietly moving that the feelings it solicits are genuine - at least they were for me. It's able to do this, I believe, because of Cronin's masterful construction of sentences. His ability to seamlessly drift between dreams and reality is rare, and it lends a mystical quality to the book that is meant to mirror the inexplicable nature of suffering and everyday experience of the human race. It's a powerful novel-in-stories.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Lucking

    I absolutely love Justin Cronin's writing. Beautifully poignant, touching and intimate. My first experience with Cronin's writing was The Passage. Absolutely thrilling yet intuitive writing, I was captivated and decided to purchase the other books he has written. Justin Cronin's debut novel,Mary and O'Neil, is quite different than The Passage! After reading the more supernatural, thrilling The Passage, Mary and O'Neil is a more intimate tale of pain, happiness, love and relationships. Coming bac I absolutely love Justin Cronin's writing. Beautifully poignant, touching and intimate. My first experience with Cronin's writing was The Passage. Absolutely thrilling yet intuitive writing, I was captivated and decided to purchase the other books he has written. Justin Cronin's debut novel,Mary and O'Neil, is quite different than The Passage! After reading the more supernatural, thrilling The Passage, Mary and O'Neil is a more intimate tale of pain, happiness, love and relationships. Coming back to the story of Mary and O'Neil, as well as some of O'Neil's family members, you are given an intimate glimpse into their lives and emotional growth. Each chapter begins a few years after the previous chapter ends, and it's a beautiful way to see how each of these characters' lives have developed. The ending leaves you wanting more. The ending in a sense felt incomplete; as reader, I wanted to know even more about the characters' lives. Yet, I don't think the ending could have been written any better. I have also purchased Cronin's The Summer Guest, and cannot wait to read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    6.99 on 07/18/17 Beautiful story about family, marriage, love, loss, grief, life. Cronin has become a favorite author this years, his writing is elegant and effortless. This book is a favorite for 2017. I will read it again. Gorgeous cover!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Darlene

    After reading The Passage and really enjoying it, I discovered earlier novels by Justin Cronin. Not long ago, I read Mr. Cronin's novel, The Summer Guest, and I loved it as well. This novel, Mary and O'Neil, is actually Mr. Cronin's first novel and it is fantastic! If you're looking for a fast paced, action packed novel like The Passage, then this book is not for you; however, if you really enjoy a character driven story as I do, I think you will love it! As was the case with Mr. Cronin's, The Su After reading The Passage and really enjoying it, I discovered earlier novels by Justin Cronin. Not long ago, I read Mr. Cronin's novel, The Summer Guest, and I loved it as well. This novel, Mary and O'Neil, is actually Mr. Cronin's first novel and it is fantastic! If you're looking for a fast paced, action packed novel like The Passage, then this book is not for you; however, if you really enjoy a character driven story as I do, I think you will love it! As was the case with Mr. Cronin's, The Summer Guest, this story is told in a collection of short stories... beginning in November of 1979 and ending in September of 2000. Each short story follows the members of the Burke family.... Arthur, Miriam, Kay and O'Neil. These chapters together tell the story of this rather ordinary family and in reading their story, you just may see something of yourself or your own family... I know I did. Although each member of the Burke family is introduced and written about, I felt that O'Neil was the main focus of the novel. The story was mainly told through his eyes and we learned of the other family members by his thoughts and feelings about what transpired in his family. In the beginning of the novel, tragedy struck the Burke family during a parent weekend at the college O'Neil was attending at the time. Because of this tragedy, the Burke family was forever changed and the rest of the story portrays the ways in which this family dealt with and learned to live with the tragedy. As in any family after a loss occurs, O'Neil and his sister, Kay, start the long and painful process of moving on in their lives and the subsequent chapters are about these siblings.. their relationship with each other and how they came to terms with their painful loss.... and yet still remaining a family. O'Neil goes on to meet Mary... a young woman who has also experienced a profound loss of her own and carries her grief deep inside. The two end up marrying and we follow these characters throughout the rest of the novel... their joys, their disappointments and their sorrows... and what we come to find, I believe, is what Mr. Cronin was trying to convey through his beautifully written prose..... a human life is made up of many moments, weeks, months and years. We, as human beings, experience all of the joys and sorrows that come with life. We follow O'Neil, Mary, Kay and their families through weddings, births, graduations and funerals... each of these occasions bring family members together and help weave the tapestry which makes up a human life.. a family. Through his beautifully written prose, Mr. Cronin has proven himself to be a gifted storyteller with extraordinary human insight. I look forward to reading more of his very impressive work!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    My God. This novel is luminous. I can't think of a better adjective to describe it. My only previous experience with Cronin's work was the fantastic The Passage. While this novel is literary and concerns itself with the lives of a mid-20th century family, it is no less a wonder. Mr. Cronin's writing flows so smoothly and the words he uses are unexpected but perfect for the storytelling. It is like reading a long, grand poem that opens up your very soul. I was worried that I wouldn't like this novel My God. This novel is luminous. I can't think of a better adjective to describe it. My only previous experience with Cronin's work was the fantastic The Passage. While this novel is literary and concerns itself with the lives of a mid-20th century family, it is no less a wonder. Mr. Cronin's writing flows so smoothly and the words he uses are unexpected but perfect for the storytelling. It is like reading a long, grand poem that opens up your very soul. I was worried that I wouldn't like this novel after the bleak near-futuristic The Passage, but Mr. Cronin's skill with prose transcends genre. My only disappointment is the title. Mary and O'Neil aren't the focus of a good portion of this novel and such a plain title doesn't do what's between the book covers justice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Silvia

    This a powerfully written book about ordinary life. I can’t really point out anything that is unusual or out of the ordinary but it knocked me off my feet. The characters are all so strong and their depth had me studying each action as I was captivated by this author’s writing. One thing I appreciated was how we were made to understand why the characters did what they did and what their thought processes were behind their actions. I believed them. Everything about this book was so believable. No This a powerfully written book about ordinary life. I can’t really point out anything that is unusual or out of the ordinary but it knocked me off my feet. The characters are all so strong and their depth had me studying each action as I was captivated by this author’s writing. One thing I appreciated was how we were made to understand why the characters did what they did and what their thought processes were behind their actions. I believed them. Everything about this book was so believable. Now I’m rambling because I’m not sure how to explain how moved I was throughout the entirety of this short novel. I don’t think 5 stars is enough to rate this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Seriously one of the really great books that just didn't get the attention it should have. It's a gorgeous story, told in jumps over time, in different perspectives, through a series of short stories. I lost a Saturday to this book, start to finish, and became a huge fan. I think this book belongs right up there with Salinger stories, I laughed, I cried, and the writer trusted me to be smart enough to fill in details on my own. Just a work of art from start to finish. Seriously one of the really great books that just didn't get the attention it should have. It's a gorgeous story, told in jumps over time, in different perspectives, through a series of short stories. I lost a Saturday to this book, start to finish, and became a huge fan. I think this book belongs right up there with Salinger stories, I laughed, I cried, and the writer trusted me to be smart enough to fill in details on my own. Just a work of art from start to finish.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Beautiful story that I will not forget.

  12. 5 out of 5

    EG

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I agree with the review quote printed on the front of the book that says 'subtle, truthful and lovely' (though it was also a very sad read in places). It spans a period of thirty to forty years, with huge gaps of time passing between the chapters, and it focuses on particularly significant events--a wedding day, a birth, and more than one death. Although I would have loved to read more about some of the characters (especially Kay), the 'snapshot' form of the book works very well. I wouldn't reco I agree with the review quote printed on the front of the book that says 'subtle, truthful and lovely' (though it was also a very sad read in places). It spans a period of thirty to forty years, with huge gaps of time passing between the chapters, and it focuses on particularly significant events--a wedding day, a birth, and more than one death. Although I would have loved to read more about some of the characters (especially Kay), the 'snapshot' form of the book works very well. I wouldn't recommend it to those who like a lot of shocking drama in their fiction, but people who appreciate carefully crafted and nuanced characters will probably enjoy it. The beauty of the book lies in the combination of the normality of most of the events that occur and the honest, bittersweet revelations that take place in the minds of the lead characters (many of which ring true in a way that prompt reflections about your own loved ones).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Matthews

    Because I so enjoyed "Domestic Violets" (Matthew Norman), and because I had already read a number of the books Norman included in his end notes as having been influential (but not this one), I downloaded "Mary and O'Neill", having never heard of either Cronin or this debut novel. It's a beautiful, slowly unfolding series of stories that form an engaging and poignant novel - told with enormous sensitivity, primarily through the eyes of O'Neill - husband, sibling, orphan, parent and often unwittin Because I so enjoyed "Domestic Violets" (Matthew Norman), and because I had already read a number of the books Norman included in his end notes as having been influential (but not this one), I downloaded "Mary and O'Neill", having never heard of either Cronin or this debut novel. It's a beautiful, slowly unfolding series of stories that form an engaging and poignant novel - told with enormous sensitivity, primarily through the eyes of O'Neill - husband, sibling, orphan, parent and often unwitting role model. I was sincerely touched - by the warmth and geunineness of the story, the lovely and memorable characters, and the simple beauty of the writing. I will look anxiously for more work from Justin Cronin, and hope to return to this book periodically, as I suspect it will speak anew at various other stages of life. This one was a joy to read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘The moment would pass but until it did, no one was going anywhere.’ This novel uses eight linked stories of different length and from different perspectives to bring to life the characters of Mary and O’Neil. The stories, focussed on particular events in their lives, are dated so that we can follow the chronology of the events that have shaped the characters of Mary and O’Neil. Most powerful of the stories, for me, was the opening story entitled ‘Last of the Leaves’. The central characters in th ‘The moment would pass but until it did, no one was going anywhere.’ This novel uses eight linked stories of different length and from different perspectives to bring to life the characters of Mary and O’Neil. The stories, focussed on particular events in their lives, are dated so that we can follow the chronology of the events that have shaped the characters of Mary and O’Neil. Most powerful of the stories, for me, was the opening story entitled ‘Last of the Leaves’. The central characters in this story are O’Neil’s parents, Arthur and Miriam. The story opens in November 1979, with Arthur’s premonition of death, on a day in which he and Miriam are travelling to visit O’Neil at college. While they are preparing for this trip we learn that each has secrets, and what these secrets are. We learn too that individual secrets can be put aside or forgotten in the shared joy of seeing O’Neil happy. This visit has a tragic aftermath which influences the balance of the novel without overshadowing the events yet to unfold. I enjoyed this novel with its bittersweet observations of different life events, both joyous and tragic. In fewer than 300 pages, Mr Cronin creates likeable and human characters whose experiences both as individuals and as members of family units will be recognisable to so many readers. With fewer than 300 pages, this is a comparatively quick read. Quick, but not necessarily easy. This is the first of Mr Cronin’s novels I have read, and I am looking forward to reading the others. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Macneill

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Whoever thought that putting disjointed short stories into a novel was a good idea was wrong! I'm not even sure why the title is Mary and O'Neil when the story is more about O'Neill and his sister Kate. None of the short stories/chapters has a difinite end but yet they are all connected be a recurring theme of O'Neil's parents death and Mary's abortion. I felt like I was walking through someones dreams that I only had a vague understanding of what was going on. Perhaps I'm not deep enough to rea Whoever thought that putting disjointed short stories into a novel was a good idea was wrong! I'm not even sure why the title is Mary and O'Neil when the story is more about O'Neill and his sister Kate. None of the short stories/chapters has a difinite end but yet they are all connected be a recurring theme of O'Neil's parents death and Mary's abortion. I felt like I was walking through someones dreams that I only had a vague understanding of what was going on. Perhaps I'm not deep enough to realize the literary meaning behind the novel, but with shallowly depicted characters and no real plot direction but flashes of people's lives it is something I will not be reading again.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Frosty61

    Another reviewer labeled this a 'quiet' book and that's a good description. I found it boring, but persevered to the end, hoping it would get better. Instead, it just got more depressing and slow, with an occasional jump in time to move things along through love, loss, births, deaths, and the struggles we all go through as human beings. There was no excitement, no highs, mostly lows. Another reviewer labeled this a 'quiet' book and that's a good description. I found it boring, but persevered to the end, hoping it would get better. Instead, it just got more depressing and slow, with an occasional jump in time to move things along through love, loss, births, deaths, and the struggles we all go through as human beings. There was no excitement, no highs, mostly lows.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shilpa

    everyday melancholy gently wrapped with love.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    I picked this up because someone recommended Cronin's "The Passage" to me, and I didn't want to dive into a 700+ page vampire apocalypse book without testing the waters a bit. Cronin was introduced to me as a guy who has serious literary pretensions but who found no success through conventional paths, so he capitalized on the zeitgeist a wrote an apocalyptic fiction trilogy. Good for him! But I don't know that I'll read it, because while there was nothing bad about this book it all just felt ver I picked this up because someone recommended Cronin's "The Passage" to me, and I didn't want to dive into a 700+ page vampire apocalypse book without testing the waters a bit. Cronin was introduced to me as a guy who has serious literary pretensions but who found no success through conventional paths, so he capitalized on the zeitgeist a wrote an apocalyptic fiction trilogy. Good for him! But I don't know that I'll read it, because while there was nothing bad about this book it all just felt very light and fleeting. I wasn't invested in the characters, the plot lines weren't especially interesting. I'm sad because the last three PEN/Hemingway books I'd read ("Eileen," "Homegoing," and "Chemistry") were all great. Oh well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Cavar

    Cronin is an absolutely beautiful, empathetic writer with outstanding insight into human emotion. This book is a gem.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    Quiet, moving, true, and clear.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Marquis

    A little gem. Beautifully written stories about humble human lives. The truth and magic in Cronin’s observations of birth, death, and more repeatedly moved me to tears.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Blaire

    Books with this structure (a novel composed of related stories) seem to be more and more common these days, but I think this novel was written when it was still pretty rare and therefore fairly innovative. It's the second book I've read of Mr. Cronin's, although it was the first he published, and I found it nearly as impressive as his later book. Astounding, really, for a debut novel. I'm not sure how old he was when he wrote this, but I assume he was fairly young. And yet the writing displays t Books with this structure (a novel composed of related stories) seem to be more and more common these days, but I think this novel was written when it was still pretty rare and therefore fairly innovative. It's the second book I've read of Mr. Cronin's, although it was the first he published, and I found it nearly as impressive as his later book. Astounding, really, for a debut novel. I'm not sure how old he was when he wrote this, but I assume he was fairly young. And yet the writing displays the control, perceptiveness, and experience of a much older person. He's spot on in describing human relationships and developing his characters with truth and kindness. I would read nearly anything by this author. I'm going to need that loyalty because his upcoming book is the first of a trilogy about vampires.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    I needed another Justin Cronin book to tide me over while I'm waiting for The Twelve to arrive in the fall, and I found this earlier work charming. Cronin writes characters who interact with the world in a highly intuitive way, who experience the intangible and see everyday events as profound. In the hands of a less capable writer, this could result in overwrought rambling — but Cronin is able to exercise such restraint and articulate the inner world of his characters with nuance and grace. This I needed another Justin Cronin book to tide me over while I'm waiting for The Twelve to arrive in the fall, and I found this earlier work charming. Cronin writes characters who interact with the world in a highly intuitive way, who experience the intangible and see everyday events as profound. In the hands of a less capable writer, this could result in overwrought rambling — but Cronin is able to exercise such restraint and articulate the inner world of his characters with nuance and grace. This book was three and a half stars for me, but my affection for Cronin and his talent required a half-star upgrade.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I picked up this book after reading Justin Cronin's The Passage, which I couldn't put down. This, his debut novel, was completely different but equally just as good. Justin has a knack of writing characters that make you care about them and subsequently care about what happens in their lives. I liked the structure of the book too - individual sections dedicated to certain characters that impacted and set the mould for the main character and the main thread of the overall story. A pleasant read. I picked up this book after reading Justin Cronin's The Passage, which I couldn't put down. This, his debut novel, was completely different but equally just as good. Justin has a knack of writing characters that make you care about them and subsequently care about what happens in their lives. I liked the structure of the book too - individual sections dedicated to certain characters that impacted and set the mould for the main character and the main thread of the overall story. A pleasant read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    JudiAnne

    A story about ordinary people and their lives, loves and losses. The stories were linked together to make up a loose plot but it was beautifully written. If you are into stories told in prose, this might be the book for you. However, if you are looking for an exciting plot I think you might be disappointed. A nice easy read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    After enjoying Cronin's prose in "The Summer Guest", I searched for his earlier book. Cronin's eloquent writing brought laughter and tears with his interwoven stories of love, life and being human. This book was published in 2001 and had only been taken out from my local library seven times, the last being one year ago. Oh what people are missing! I'll look forward to spreading the word. After enjoying Cronin's prose in "The Summer Guest", I searched for his earlier book. Cronin's eloquent writing brought laughter and tears with his interwoven stories of love, life and being human. This book was published in 2001 and had only been taken out from my local library seven times, the last being one year ago. Oh what people are missing! I'll look forward to spreading the word.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sue Thornquist

    This was Justin Cronin's debut novel, the second of his works I've read. That Summer Guest was one of my favorite books from a couple years ago--so easy to relate to since it's based around a summer resort that families go to year after years. Even though it was in Maine, and we've gone to a family owned resort in Wisconsin (45 years). Mary and O'Neil was well written, the early beginnings of Cronin's lovely prose, and his characters were people I cared about. I really liked the format, like sepa This was Justin Cronin's debut novel, the second of his works I've read. That Summer Guest was one of my favorite books from a couple years ago--so easy to relate to since it's based around a summer resort that families go to year after years. Even though it was in Maine, and we've gone to a family owned resort in Wisconsin (45 years). Mary and O'Neil was well written, the early beginnings of Cronin's lovely prose, and his characters were people I cared about. I really liked the format, like separate but interconnected stories focusing on particular characters and their story. Mary and O'Neil are featured in more of the stories, but we also get acquainted with O'Neil's parents, his sister and her husband, his nephews--all of whom have their own tragedies and struggles. I loved that O'Neil was an English teacher, and the way Cronin wraps up O'Neil's struggles with his parents' death (not really a spoiler, happens early) and his sister's health and marriage issues, was just lovely. Human, authentic, and poignant. And a wonderful look at student-teacher moments. I will seek out other Cronin novels.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    I wish this wasn’t the last book by Justin Cronin available. What a book! Just as with all his other books, Cronin develops characters who feel real. I sure do hope he’s working on another novel......

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    4.5 Stars Mary and O’Neil is Justin Cronin’s debut a novel, a book that many of my friends here at Goodreads have recommended to me. I read Cronin’s The Passage, a novel that I should have loved, but just never really connected with. This book like many others is simply a quiet piece of life. It has its focus on the love between a Parent and Child, Love between two very different siblings, and even love between man and woman. It also is heavily weighed down with loss and tragedy. Yet amazingly, t 4.5 Stars Mary and O’Neil is Justin Cronin’s debut a novel, a book that many of my friends here at Goodreads have recommended to me. I read Cronin’s The Passage, a novel that I should have loved, but just never really connected with. This book like many others is simply a quiet piece of life. It has its focus on the love between a Parent and Child, Love between two very different siblings, and even love between man and woman. It also is heavily weighed down with loss and tragedy. Yet amazingly, this real to life piece of fiction seemed to me to be mostly about the beauty of life itself, tragedy and loss aside. We are treated to many quiet scenes where life details are colored out for us and made three dimensional. We quickly empathize and bond with all the characters each having a unique outlook and point of view that adds to the depth of this book. The writing in this book is a true standout. You have heard it all before, poetic, lyrical, and magical too. Many of the scenes seemed to be so real to life that you could actually feel like you were there too. Quiet beauty is the best way to describe it. I have for you two rather long quotes that to me capture the essence of this wonderful read: “Later, when O’Neil imagines the accident—in the days and weeks that follow, and then for years to come—he imagines that it occurs in silence, and that his parents’ eyes are closed. Their eyes are closed like children asleep in a car at night, their faces and bodies in perfect, trusting repose, his father at the wheel, his mother beside him, and though it makes no sense to think it, he sees them holding hands—as O’Neil will one day hold his daughter’s hand when a nightmare has awakened her, to tell her that he is there beside her, that in sleep we have nothing to fear. Silence, and his parents, and the snow: he inhabits this moment as if it were not imagined but remembered, with a vividness that seems to lodge in his bones, just as he feels, with his body, the moment when the car lifts on the ice and begins its long, languid arc toward the embankment. There is no guardrail, nothing for the car’s front end to strike, to impede its progress or in any way change the nature of the scene, its dreamlike silence. The total, parabolic energy of their vehicle—thirty-five hundred pounds of diesel-powered French station wagon, traveling at or about the legal speed limit of fifty miles per hour—is suddenly, amazingly, tractionless. It is unbounded, set loose from the earth, and though jealous gravity will soon assert itself, whisking his parents to the valley floor at a velocity sufficient to snap the chassis in two, for this moment they are free; they are as free as ghosts, as comets, they are streaking across the heavens; Arthur and Miriam, together at last.” “Though some might have thought this a morbid scene, a pair of orphans moping around the house, in fact the weeks following their parents’ death passed quickly and became, for O’Neil, a time of strange and unexpected contentment. Unhappiness, he discovered, was an emotion distinct from grief, and he found it was possible both to miss his parents terribly—a loss so overwhelming he simply couldn’t take it all in, like looking at a skyscraper up close—while also finding in the job of settling their affairs a satisfying orderliness. Accounts to be closed, bills to be paid, letters to be read and discarded, clothing to be boxed and carted off: he knew what he and Kay were doing—they were erasing their parents, removing the last evidence of their lives from the earth. It was, O’Neil knew, a way of saying good-bye, and yet with each trip to the Goodwill box behind the Price Chopper, each final phone call to a bank or loan company, he felt his parents becoming real to him in a way that they had never been in life. More than real: he felt them move inside him. Jack had returned to New Haven a few days after the funeral, and alone in the house, O’Neil and Kay slipped into a pattern that was, he realized, the same one his parents had kept, or nearly. The hours they ate and worked and slept, their habit of meeting in the living room in the evenings for a cup of tea—these were all things their parents had done, and on a night close to the end of their time together, O’Neil dreamed that he and Kay were married. It was a dream in which they were both the same and also different—they were at once their parents and themselves—and when he awoke in his old bedroom under the eaves, he felt not revulsion or shame but a fleeting certainty that he had been touched by the world of the spirits.” Cronin works his magic by penning these stories in such a way that nothing is ever rushed yet at the same time things are never too slow. There is just the right amount of pacing and plot movement to keep us turning the pages. By the time I reached the end of this book I was physically tired due to the emotional toll brought on by the story. Like the book itself, I was left quietly very satisfied and full. I highly recommend this book to fiction lovers and will now have to queue up a reread of The Passage. Beautifully Sad!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Liked the writing, although I thought a couple of points were repeated unnecessarily as it's a short read,once or twice through the book. Liked the writing, although I thought a couple of points were repeated unnecessarily as it's a short read,once or twice through the book.

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