Bitter is the Wind
Set in the 1970s, Bitter is the Wind is a simple story following a father and son during life’s ups and downs. George Sr. was a promising up and coming baseball star until he knocked up his girlfriend and settled down into a stable life of providing for his family. Tragedy strikes when a car accident takes his wife and daughter, leaving George Sr. and his son alone. From there, their life bumps along fate’s dirt road encountering love, loss, and eventually success. George Jr. manages to break out of the small town all the way to Wall Street, but soon discovers he is just as trapped in his life as his father was.
McDermott crafts an interesting examination of family and masculinity in a tumultuous time. George Sr. deals with suddenly becoming a single parent, trying to keep a rebellious son from acting out, and his own attempts to find love as a widower. George Jr. is driven to find a better life than his father’s but ultimately stumbles against the law and his own blind ambition. While the story revolves around father and son, McDermott focuses on George Jr.’s attempt to avoid his father’s fate while making mistakes and poor choices that basically set him on a similar path.
The prose is simple and engaging with decent characterization and pacing. The novel definitely captures the feel of the time nicely, but this is not a historical novel. The honesty of the message coupled with McDermott’s clear goal at pointing out the difficulty for the middle class to break out is engaging. Because of this, the story has a melancholy tone, and that coupled with the ambiguous ending, makes this less of a happy read and more of a thoughtful one. However, it is still a fascinating character study and slice of life novel following two trapped men and how they attempt to cope with it. Honest and poignant, Bitter is the Wind is a promising novel and points to McDermott as an author to watch.