Mary and O'Neil
A Novel in Stories
By Justin Cronin
(Dial Press Trade Paperback, Paperback, 9780385333597, 256pp.)
Publication Date: January 29, 2002
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Mary and O’Neil frequently marveled at how, of all the lives they might have led, they had somehow found this one together. When they met at the Philadelphia high school where they’d come to teach, each had suffered a profound loss that had not healed. How likely was it that they could learn to trust, much less love, again?
Justin Cronin’s poignant debut traces the lives of Mary Olson and O’Neil Burke, two vulnerable young teachers who rediscover in each other a world alive with promise and hope. From the formative experiences of their early adulthood to marriage, parenthood, and beyond, this novel in stories illuminates the moments of grace that enable Mary and O’Neil to make peace with the deep emotional legacies that haunt them: the sudden, mysterious death of O’Neil’s parents, Mary’s long-ago decision to end a pregnancy, O’Neil’s sister’s battle with illness and a troubled marriage. Alive with magical nuance and unexpected encounters, Mary and O’Neil celebrates the uncommon in common lives, and the redemptive power of love.
Justin Cronin is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and associate professor of English at La Salle University. His work has appeared in many literary journals, including Epoch, Greensboro Review, and Crescent Review, and in The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine. He lives with his wife and their young daughter in Philadelphia.
“An astonishingly good first novel...fully engaging from the
first paragraph. What a gift: to be able to live
alongside these people for a while.”
–Ann Patchett, Chicago Tribune
“A literary love story...about the fragility of good fortune
and the accidental ways of finding happiness.”
“Justin Cronin must have been a novelist in an earlier life. What
else could account for the mature insight and the beautifully
controlled technique we find in his debut novel?...Cronin
succeeds, touchingly and tenderly, in portraying life
itself as a triumph of hope over experience.”
–The Boston Globe
“Justin Cronin’s Mary and O’Neil is that rare thing: a wholly
engrossing story of the ordinary life.”
–Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising