Oliver Loving: A Novel by Stefan Merrill Block


Spooky Action at a Distance:  it wasn’t only your family or the people of your town that were tangled up with you in that vexing physics.

A young man commits an act that sucks Oliver Loving, full of passionate unrequited love for one Rebekkah Sterling, into a black abyss of half existance. The is he, isn’t he there question plagues his family, and haunts the girl he never had the chance to love. His brother, his parents, the community and Rebekkah never truly move on from that tragic November night when a simple dance turned to nightmare. There aren’t enough miles to escape the gravity of Oliver’s bed-bound presence, but is there enough faith for a miracle?

A decade has come and gone, or remained a stillness as Oliver lives in Crockett State Assisted Care Facility, unable to communicate, with no way to determine just how much of his mind is alive. His mother Eve has never given up on him, his father is an absence though just as chained to that bed as his beloved son, his brother Charlie an escapee  living in New York, destined to return when a new medical test promises to be key in contacting Oliver. Will it bring Rebekkah back? Charlie has always known there was more to that ill fated night than she let on. Just what did she know? Why won’t she speak of it?

There is so much sorrow tangled in the before and after. the measure we give time that is just an illusion. The now, it is always now and what comes to pass begins at the same point as it ends. Each character is trapped in a destiny poisoned by choices, small fissures that appeared long before a gunmen chose to take lives. Lingering, so much lingers in this novel. There is devastation for Charlie in the hopeless longing his mother has (her attention riveted on his brother’s lifeless form), in his attempts to be the son Eve needs him to be the one his brother perfected and his father’s decision to absent himself from the family. There is something sickeningly casual in the way his father Jed sinks welcomingly into his dark sorry moods, unable to face work, Oliver, life… Eve has always had to be the solid presence, by default when Jed subtracted himself, and after the tragedy he becomes more phantom than husband and father.

The reader gets the full effect Oliver’s precarious existance has over the town, more importantly over his family and his first serious love, his only love. Just how did Oliver end up where he was that night? What led to the shooting? Secrets refuse to remain silent forever, but just who will reveal everything? How can Oliver possibly be the catalyst to answers, when he lies silent as death? It’s a novel about becoming, and wonder, the sheer wrongness of fates whims and love, always love. It is the whisper of thoughts and scream of actions, the seemingly randomness of terror when it lands upon bystanders. But none of us are bystanders, not really. Existenance isn’t a housebroken animal, an act is never on a leash, love and hatred can both be contagions and cures. I do realize I am running away with my thoughts here. It’s just the sort of book that reminds you there is no such thing as seperate, and yet could Oliver be any further from his loved ones?

This, I think, will be a different book to the old than it is to the young. At the end, I felt release and sorrowful happiness and yet it is not a happy book. What happens is horrific, unjust! I was so sad when I figured out the why of it all but it was beautiful too. People let you down and pull you up. Those in our lives hold on when they should let go and give up when they should fight- how flawed we are. The pause in the trajectory of Oliver’s life, tragedy is such a weak word, but there it is.

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

Flatiron Books







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