"A dazzling novel about love, loss, and the mysteries of the mind."
— David Ebershoff, Bestselling author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife
"A breathtaking tale of tragedy and redemption... A triumph" — People
A family in crisis, a town torn apart, and the boy who holds the secret has been cocooned in a coma for ten years.
One warm, West Texas November night, a shy boy named Oliver Loving joins 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 plays, a troubled young man sneaks in through the school’s back door. The dire choices this man makes that evening —and the unspoken story he carries— will tear 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. Orbiting the stillpoint of Oliver’s hospital bed is a family transformed: Oliver’s mother, Eve, who keeps desperate vigil; Oliver’s brother, Charlie, who has fled for New York City only to discover he cannot escape the gravity of his shattered family; Oliver’s father, Jed, who tries to erase his memories with bourbon. And then there is Rebekkah Sterling, Oliver’s teenage love, who left Texas long ago and still refuses to speak about her own part in that tragic night. When a new medical test promises a key to unlock Oliver’s trapped mind, the town’s unanswered questions resurface with new urgency, as Oliver’s doctors and his family fight for a way for Oliver to finally communicate— and so also to tell the truth of what really happened that fateful night.
A moving meditation on the transformative power of grief and love, a slyly affectionate look at the idiosyncrasies of family, and an emotionally-charged page-turner, Stefan Merill Block's Oliver Loving is an extraordinarily original novel that ventures into the unknowable and returns with the most fundamental truths.
Block (The Storm at the Door) once again explores the ways in which debilitating illness breaks apart tenuous family bonds in his unsettling third novel. Set 30 miles north of the Mexico border in west Texas, where closed storefronts outnumber what's in business and sentiment against "illegals" runs high, the book opens with a shooting at a school dance that leaves a popular teacher dead. Four students also die, including gunman Hector Espina Jr., the 21-year-old son of an undocumented Mexican sanitation worker. Seventeen-year-old Oliver Loving survives and is discovered on the floor covered in blood by his father, Jed, but he is in a vegetative state. Over the course of the next decade, the event takes its toll on the townspeople, especially Rebekkah Sterling, a crush of Oliver's who escaped the shooting, and Oliver's guilt-ridden family members. Jed descends into drunkenness; Oliver's mother, Eve, maintains a myopic bedside vigil; and Oliver's younger brother Charlie flees to New York, but never pulls his life together. When a new test shows signs that there is activity in Oliver's brain, hope is tentatively restored, but at a steep cost for everyone involved. Block discloses the truth of what happened at the shooting by telling the story from different perspectives. Though the lead-up to the big reveal is perhaps too long to sustain itself, the book poses big questions about what constitutes a life worth living.