Synopses & Reviews
The year is 1973. As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, cars skid out of control, fathers and mothers swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, come face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives — in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.
"Exhaustive detailing of early 1970s popular/consumer culture in suburban New England provides the context for this archetypal tale of the American nuclear family in decline. The affluent WASP community of New Canaan, Conn., is home to the Hood and Williams families, neighboring two-parent, two-child households built around increasingly dysfunctional marriages. Benjamin Hood, plagued by a loss of importance at work and a growing drinking problem, pursues an ill-fated affair with Janey Williams; his wife, Elena, feels herself losing what little regard she has left for him. Meanwhile, the adolescent children of both families experiment with sex, alcohol and drugs to find identities and to overcome a ponderous sense of alienation. A neighborhood "key party," at which couples exchange mates by drawing keys out of a bowl, brings the action to a chaotic climax as an apocalyptic winter storm culminates in physical tragedy to match the emotional damage in the small community. Pop-cultural references of the time, from Hush Puppies to the film Billy Jack, pervade the text. Unfortunately, Moody, winner of the Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award for his first novel, Garden State, tends to use these details in a more encyclopedic than evocative manner. His depiction of these families, however, is insightful and convincing, penetrating the thoughts and fears of each individual. And the central tragedy of his tale remains resonant, though his decrying of our cultural wasteland seems a bit stale. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of the wittiest books about family life ever written." Guardian
"Powerful....Moody's dialogue is sharp, his scenes vivid, and his pacing sure....He is a stylist who can summon strong emotions." Newsday
"A bitter and loving and damning tribute to the American family.... This is a good book, packed with keen observation and sympathy for human failure." Chicago Tribune
"The Ice Storm works on so many levels, and is so smartly written, that it should establish Rick Moody as one of his generation's bellwether voices." Hungry Mind Review
"Moody brings this profusion of metaphor to order with a fierce, subversive intelligence. His characters, drawn with a manic acuity that isn't fully accounted for until the end, stay with us long after we've finished reading." Boston Globe
"Moody masterfully captures suburban angst through lucid detail. But his characters lack substance so that we don't care what happens to them, and in the end, it seems, neither do they." Kirkus Reviews
On the occasion of the paperback release of Demonology, Back Bay Books takes pleasure in making all four of Rick Moody's acclaimed earlier works of fiction available in handsome new paperback editions.
Reminiscent of Updike and Cheever in its depiction of the familiar suburban landscape, this unsettling yet funny retrospective of the 1970s creates a moving portrait of the Hoods — a dysfunctional "family of four" whose imminent meltdown is put to the test when the worst ice storm in a century hits — and all hell really breaks loose.
About the Author
Fick Moody has received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY.
Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss the book's title. Does it signify anything beyond the freak November storm that rages throughout the novel?
2. The Ice Storm is filled with period detail that captures the tone and texture of the 1970's. What might be different about the lives of the Hood and Williams families if their story were unfolding today?
3. Each member of the Hood family acknowledges feeling lonely. What accounts for this prevailing sense of alienation?
4. "Wendy's ambition was to be as unlike her mother as possible in every way." How unusual is such a sentiment in a fourteen-year-old girl? In what ways is Wendy's situation extreme?
5. Rick Moody has been frequently compared with John Cheever and John Updike as a chronicler of suburban American life. Do you think the drama (and comedy) of The Ice Storm is intrinsically suburban? In what ways might story be different if the novel's setting were urban or rural?
6. The Ice Storm is set in the era of the sexual revolution. Discuss the ways in which the radically changing mores of the time are reflected in the lives of each member of the Hood family.
7. The novel is narrated from four different perspectives. Was there one perspective, one series of passages, that you enjoyed reading more than the others? Why?
8. Benjamin Hood explains to his wife that unfaithfulness is "the law of the land." Do you agree with him? Do you think this justifies his adultery?
9. For which of the novel's characters did you feel the greatest sympathy? Why?
10. If members of your reading group have seen the movie The Ice Storm, discuss the ways in which the book and film differ, and the extent to which the film succeeds in capturing the book's essence.