Ohio is a eulogy to middle America and its flyover states ... Timely and of vital importance, Ohio delves into the spectrum of issues consuming contemporary America’s Rust Belt, exploring topics like joblessness, addiction, terrorism, sexuality, religion and sex, to name a few. Markley’s disturbing masterpiece reads like the offspring of Harlan Coben, Jonathan Franzen and Hanya Yanagihara: an illuminating snapshot of our current era masquerading as a twisted character-driven thriller, filled with mordant wit and soul-shaking patho ... Markley purposely provokes his readers, challenging us to confront and ponder topics and people that make us uncomfortable. His method will undoubtedly prove divisive, but those who have the temerity to let Ohio absorb them will be rewarded.
Markley's debut is a sprawling, beautiful novel that explores the aftermath of the Great Recession ... Markley intersperses the stories of the four Ohioans with flashbacks to high school, and his portrayals are horrifyingly accurate. He does a perfect job examining the casual cruelties teenagers inflict on one another ... There's a lot going on in Ohio — a sprawling cast of main and supporting characters, and a series of interconnected events that doesn't come together until the book's shocking conclusion. But Markley handles it beautifully; the novel is intricately constructed, with gorgeous, fiery writing that pulls the reader in and never lets go ... Written with a real love for its characters, Ohio isn't just a remarkable debut novel, it's a wild, angry and devastating masterpiece of a book.
A prehistory of now, Markley’s bruising novel chronicles a decade in which those in the sinking parts of our nation began looking for anyone to blame and anything to relieve the pain of loss ... every one of this socially representative cast of characters is broken; the only variety is by what. There’s the Great Recession, the flight of manufacturing, the ravages of addiction, sexual violence—the full smorgasbord of American tragedy ... The diverse trajectories of these young people provide the author an arsenal of cultural signifiers with which to mine his fictional landscape, as well as the opportunity to expound on contemporary politics, religion, sex, drugs, literature, music and much else. This is novel as compendium ... But for all its genuinely absorbing qualities, Ohio retains a whiff of calculation ... the determination to create an explosive powerhouse of a book emanates from every page here. Markley can’t resist using his characters as mouthpieces ... Novels that simultaneously attempt to explicate political history and plumb the human condition are liable to succeed at neither, but Stephen Markley’s exuberant embrace of such risk is laudable in itself.