“Ocean State,” by Stewart O’Nan (Grove Press)
In Stewart O’Nan’s “Ocean State,” the very first line reveals that a teenage girl was murdered — and also who did it. Angel killed Birdy, we learn, because they were both in love with the same boy, tangled in a passionate love triangle wrought with endless secrets and zealous anger. From there, O’Nan takes readers through the events leading up to Birdy’s fateful end, as well as the investigation that follows.
The book alternates between the perspectives of the women at the center of this tragedy. Angel and Birdy tell their own stories, but so, too, do Angel’s mother, Carol, and her sister, Marie, who are dealing with their own personal struggles while also coming to terms with the fact that a person they fiercely love did something unimaginable.
“Ocean State” is, above all else, a story of the things love does to us, both the beautiful and terrible.
The book will pull a reader in immediately, but it ultimately falls flat in delivering the plot-twisting suspense it’s opening seems to promise. What you learn on that very first page ultimately comes to light in more or less the way you would expect, without any shocking twists or turns to explain why the answer is given away so quickly.
Read more about Molly Sprayregen at https://www.mollyspray.com.