Bitter is the Wind
by Jim McDermott
2016, Cune Press
Bitter is the Wind, a novel by Portland-based litigator Jim McDermott, brings to life a
family drama set against the backdrop
of the struggles facing the working
class. Is the American dream alive and
well? What changes the trajectory of
a blue-collar life? The story traces the
coming of age of George Jr. in the wake
of family tragedy and follows him to early adulthood. The relationship between
George Jr. and his father George Sr. is
the core of the story.
McDermott paints a vivid and realistic picture of working class life in the
late 1970s and early 1980s in two rural
but connected Hudson Valley communities. Still suffering from the loss of
his mother and sister in a car accident,
George Jr. acts out in junior high despite
being highly intelligent and creative.
While dealing with his own grief, his
dad tries his best to raise his son well.
He works diligently to propel George Jr.
to a more prosperous life than his own.
One of many life lessons he imparts to
his son is the experience of running a
large rabbit business. This endeavor
showcases the rustic setting and the
tough work for extra income. George Jr.
quickly tires of the claustrophobic barn
and working amid the pungent odor of
Despite being a gifted athlete, the elder George had been forced by life circumstances to take a dead-end factory
line job in the anchor corporation of the
area, Woo Labs. George Sr. wonders if
he will ever advance in his company and
expresses frustration with his lot in life.
An exceptional student, young George
starts on a path to escape his father’s
fate. He recognizes the transformative
value of education but has several obstacles to overcome along the way. In
addition to his supportive dad, George
receives guidance from a wise widow
who is always there for him.
Both father and son question the
ethics of people in power, from the
leadership at Woo Labs to government
leaders. Historical events like Watergate and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon
mass wedding provide a backdrop
for discussions about values between
father and son. The Catholic Church
also plays a large role, as George Jr.
sorts out his beliefs and his father
grapples with disillusionment. As he
works to fulfill his dreams, George Jr.
ultimately has to decide what being
successful in life means to him.
This book takes a nostalgic look at
the time period from a male perspec-
tive. Baseball figures prominently, both
as a vehicle to escape working-class
life and as a pastime shared by father
and son. In high school, George Jr.
starts his working life at a gas station
and spends time in the local disco,
sporting long hair, and driving a gold
Duster. He has a trusted dog and good
friends, as he navigates adolescence in
a time when kids generally had more
freedom. This book will resonate with
people who grew up in the 1970s, and
with those who are concerned about the
plight of the American working class.
As the middle class shrinks and income
inequality grows, many people wonder
if their children will have more opportunities than they did. Bitter is the Wind
explores themes of social mobility, parenthood, freedom, and how, in many ways,
you never really leave your hometown. N WL
left her hometown of
Spokane a long time ago
and misses it. She is a
member of the WSBA
Editorial Advisory Committee. She lives
in Mountlake Terrace, where she is a
longtime school volunteer. She can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep it off your record,
Keep insurance costs down
• Successful Results
• Extensive experience
• Former Judge Pro Tem in King County
• Featured in Vogue magazine May ’03 as
a top lawyer for women in Washington
• Front page of Seattle Times
• “Drivers fighting tickets and winning”
June 1, 2006
• Visa/Mastercard accepted
Jeannie P. Mucklestone, P.S. INC.
PO BOX 565
Medina, Washington 98039