A readable, if somewhat programmatic, story of generational tensions in America.

Bitter is the Wind

A debut novel about the troubled relationship between a working-class father and his son.

McDermott’s work is divided into four conceptual categories: “Trouble,” “Hope,” “Desire,” and “Control,” and it maps those categories onto the story of the boyhood and coming-of-age of George Johnson Jr. in 1970s and ’80s upstate New York. Young George’s father’s dreams of big-league baseball ended when he accidentally got his girlfriend, Mary Goldberg, pregnant. As McDermott opens his story, George Sr. is a widower, his wife and daughter having died in a car accident. He’s working a spiritless local job and trying his best to raise his son, who’s also beginning to have dreams of escaping small-town life. McDermott paints an effective, touching portrait of the relationship between George Sr. and Jr., skillfully catching the realistic tension between affection and boundary-testing conflict. The two clash over George Jr.’s willfulness and youthful misbehaviors and bond over baseball and a shared outlook on life. They begin a rabbit-breeding business together, and the father beams with pride when the son is valedictorian of his class in 1977. In an economically paced series of scenes, young George goes away to college and broadens his experience of life while his father stays working at his job. The novel’s later segments lack the forward momentum of the earlier coming-of-age sections; George Jr. finds himself in a corporate job every bit as restrictive as his father’s and impulsively decides to break the family pattern (“My father’s given me a good example of how not to live,” he tells one of his bosses). Overall, McDermott does a smooth job of incorporating the politics and pop culture of his story’s setting. Although he never quite succeeds in making George Jr. anywhere near as sympathetic a character as his father, he populates the peripheries of his story with colorful secondary characters, including one, Ursula Brombecker (“long-time Village matriarch and self-proclaimed repository of Salt Point’s oral history”), who commands every scene she's in.

A readable, if somewhat programmatic, story of generational tensions in America.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61457-139-1

Page Count: 179

Publisher: Cune

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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