Welcome to the 1970s! Rick Moody's The Ice Storm is set in 1973, and despite some moments where he beats you over the head with pop culture references of that age, he also takes you back to the feelings of the early 1970s. Or so I've heard. No, just kidding. I was around then. I wasn't aware of all the sexual politics until much later, but this book nails that, from adolescence fumbling to dealing with a loveless marriage to attending the key party.
Set in Connecticut in late November, The Ice Storm takes an in-depth look at one family through each person's point of view. Benjamin Hood, his wife Elena, and their teenagers Paul and Wendy each tell their own story, admit to their own mistakes, and consider their futures with an austere honesty and sense of overwhelming ennui that marked that time in America's history.
As each of these characters are fighting with their own demons, the weather adds insult by pummeling them with a one-two punch of an ice storm and below-freezing temperatures. Broken marriages, broken pipes, icy water, and desperation run through these homes, and the Hood family feels equally impotent against the weather and the pain.
I will be honest here. I liked this book. I didn't love this book. It was discouraging how unhappy all these people were. It rang true of what I remember of the '70s, or what movies and books have taught me about the '70s, and that part was very compelling. But I didn't particularly like any of these characters, so I struggled to connect with them and their stories. I don't have to like a character to be interested in their story, but I couldn't even summon any compassion or even pity for this family. And frankly, I'm a soft touch.
This is a difficult book to read, as these characters are each in so much pain, seeing no way of escape other than a few moments of sexual satisfaction or alcohol and drug abuse. I'm not going to say that I recommend it, but there are some benefits to reading it. You get a real feel for the 1970s in suburban America. You learn the true value of Bazooka bubble gum in an American high school. And you really appreciate your own family for who they are.