Oliver Loving
by Stefan Merrill Block

Overview -

"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... 

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More About Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block

"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.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250169730
  • ISBN-10: 1250169739
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publish Date: January 2018
  • Page Count: 400
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Family Life - General
Books > Fiction > Small Town & Rural
Books > Fiction > Literary

BookPage Reviews

Those who are left behind

A school shooting: four dead, six wounded. It’s the stuff of our society’s worst recurring nightmare. And it provides the backdrop for Oliver Loving, Stefan Merrill Block’s moving third novel, the story of one family’s struggle to cope with the devastating aftermath of such a tragedy.

Nearly 10 years after he’s shot in the head at the high school homecoming dance in the small West Texas town of Bliss, Oliver Loving, now 27, lies paralyzed and mute at Crockett State Assisted Care Facility. His parents’ marriage fractured long ago, and his younger brother wrestles with the nearly impossible challenge he’s set for himself: finding the words to tell his brother’s story in a way that will, if only figuratively, bring him back to life. A glimmer of hope that Oliver may be emerging from his locked-in state only thrusts the Lovings deeper into crisis.

Block peels away the layers of concealment, both personal and communal, that have masked the truth about what led Hector Espina Jr., a recent graduate of the high school, to return one otherwise uneventful evening with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and wreak havoc on an entire town. But in contrast to the sensationalism of our ritualized news coverage, this is a ruminative novel whose accumulating emotional force depends on the acuteness of Block’s patient character development and the unassuming grace of his prose.

As periodic eruptions of gun violence surface randomly and inexplicably across our national landscape, it seems the horror of one is barely grasped before the next arrives. For all the intensity of our collective desire to move on from each of these human-inflicted disasters, Oliver Loving soberly reminds us that there are people left behind for whom the grief and pain will never disappear.


This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews