‘Every page of this compelling, exquisitely written novel is suffused with a warm intelligence that evokes the best of Tobias Wolfe, Jeffrey Eugenides and Michael Chabon. With a superb evocation of place (Texas), Oliver Loving is a haunting, imaginative, and deeply poignant story by one of America's great wordsmiths. I love this wise, probing and beautiful novel.’ - Steve Toltz
At once an affectionate, lyrical meditation on the transformative power of grief and a darkly comic Texan phantasmagoria of mangled lives and poisoned legacies, Oliver Loving ventures into the unthinkable and returns bearing no less than the truth of what ties a family together beyond love.
One summer night, beneath the Perseid meteor shower, seventeen-year-old Oliver Loving's hand makes a first furtive journey across a Navajo picnic blanket towards his classmate Rebekkah Sterling's. A few months later, Hector Espina enters Bliss County Day School's gymnasium during homecoming and shoulders a hunting rifle. The thirty-five rounds he fires cut a leveling swathe through the past and future of Oliver, his family, and the entire population of Bliss, Texas.
For the next nine years, Oliver is confined to a hospital bed. Conscious but totally paralyzed, he plumbs the depths of his own imagination, a twilit netherworld of myth, in search of meaning. Eve, his adoring and indomitable mother, holds a solemn, lonesome vigil. Vulnerable younger brother Charlie flees to New York where he desperately attempts to resurrect Oliver's consciousness using nothing but three weather-beaten journals full of unfinished poetry. Jed, Oliver's father, seems content to drink himself to death in a burnt out shack in the shadow of a resort hotel built on the land that is his birthright. But with the arrival of Professor McTeague from El Paso, towing along a new trailer-bound MRI machine and a revelation that Oliver's brain death may not be as complete as previously thought, a reckoning comes to Bliss and to the Loving family. Longtime grieving parent and newly minted experimental speech therapist Margot Strout descends, determined to make sure that Oliver reveals the truth about what happened that November night in this life or the next. What she finds, or claims to find, may prove the Lovings' salvation or push them forever into the outer darkness.
Stefan Merrill Block grew up in Plano, Texas. His first book, The Story of Forgetting, was an international bestseller and the winner of Best First Fiction at the Rome International Festival of Literature. Stefan's stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR's Radiolab, GRANTA, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Stefan lives in Brooklyn.