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Against the Wind

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Against the Wind is an elegantly written story of relationships involving six principal characters, strands of whose lives braid together after a chance reunion among three of them. A successful environmental lawyer is forced to take himself to task when he realizes that everything about his work has betrayed his core beliefs. A high school English teacher asks her former high school love to take up her environmental cause. A transgender adolescent male raised by his grandparents struggles to excel in a world hostile to his kind. A French-Canadian political science professor finds himself left with a choice between his cherished separatist cause and his marriage and family. An accomplished engineer is chronically unable to impress his more accomplished father sufficiently to be named head of the international wind technology company his father founded. The Quebec separatist party's Minister of Natural Resources, a divorcée, finds herself caught between her French-Canadian lover and an unexpected English-Canadian suitor.

296 pages, Paperback

First published September 24, 2019

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Jim Tilley

6 books20 followers

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5 stars
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18 (24%)
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19 (25%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Nursebookie.
1,985 reviews304 followers
January 18, 2020
"Against The Wind" by Jim Tilley Pub Date: 9/24/19

I enjoyed reading this novel that is set in both Canada (Montreal and Quebec) and in the US (NYC). The story is about 6 very interesting characters whose lives intertwine into this wonderful story about relationships, emotions and the strength to face past decisions. Tilley delivered a masterful and beautifully written family drama that spans about a year through this complex interwoven relationships between them.

Ralph is going through health crisis, and is nearing the end of his career as an environmental lawyer, who for many years have been defending big corporations in the wind energy world. Lynn and Jean-Pierre have a rocky relationship and also raising a transgender son, Jules, who is a talented high school student interested in becoming an engineer, and is showing a lot of promise. Lynn is both trying to rekindle her relationship with Ralph and her relationship with husband Jean-Pierre. Monique, a divorcee is the Minister of Natural Resources whose relationship is intertwined with both Jean-Pierre and Ralph. Dietrich is an accomplished engineer who went to high school with both Ralph and had a relationship with Lynn.

I loved the writing and the complex character development. The characters are brilliantly presented, each with their own story to tell. The book discusses topics and stories that include political and business issues, as well as, the trials of transgender parenting and the difficulties and responsibilities on our role of being human. Some of the themes include regret, disappointment, loss, depression and some elements of rape/abuse.

I truly enjoyed Tilley's writing style with an effortless flow and beautiful prose. I loved that even the most flawed characters were given the chance to redeem themselves and have the development of growth, relationships, and understanding of human interactions.

I have received a complementary ARC copy of the book from the author. My review is voluntary and my own honest opinion.
Profile Image for Johanna Stoberock.
Author 2 books31 followers
August 3, 2019
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this novel, which follows multiple characters as their lives intersect over the course of a year. At the center of the story is Ralph, an environmental lawyer who, at the end of his career, seeks to overcome regrets from his youth, rekindling a romance with his high school sweetheart, and finishing a canoe trip that ended in disaster. While the novel is anchored by Ralph’s story, each character is given space to become fully formed: Lynn, the high school girlfriend, Jules, her son, Jean-Pierre, her estranged husband, Monique, a Canadian politician, and Dieter, who has inflicted harm on others throughout his life. Tilley writes with attention to detail and sympathy even for the most conflicted characters, infusing his novel with questions about the way the past shapes the present and how to balance responsibility toward the world and responsibility toward oneself.
Profile Image for Ann.
25 reviews
January 21, 2020
With an amateurish writing style and too much focus on the technicalities of wind turbines and separatist movements, I found this book difficult to read. I had to force myself to finish it. I also felt that there were too many undeveloped characters (who is Peter, again?). I could not connect with any of the main characters. I truly didn't care what happened to any of them. I also thought the ending seemed unfinished.
Profile Image for Julie.
52 reviews
January 20, 2020
Received my copy as a Goodreads win.

Too many topics, too many characters, too many stories going on at once.

The ending was
Profile Image for Jose  Rodriguez .
70 reviews1 follower
September 28, 2019
This is a novel of character, among other things. I found myself quickly drawn to the main protagonists with all their strengths but even more their limitations and failures. I can’t help but think that anyone entering the “troisième âge” cannot but connect with some of the themes in the book: revisiting and confronting the distant past, all the way back to high school; who were we, who we are now, the conflicts between those time periods, but also acknowledging principles, influences, and even love that are still with us and that maybe define who we are, after all these years. And which may require some effort and integrity to clarify.
There’s another “character” in the novel that is a benevolent presence throughout, and that is the beauty of the forests, lakes, rivers and nature in general in Quebec. The author grew up in Quebec, and his obvious love for the environment there is touching and contagious.
There other important themes, such as political conflicts in Quebec around the issues of language and independence; adultery and reconciliation; even gender identity. What I found really satisfying is how all these different threads are adroitly woven together by the author into an impressive tapestry. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Eric Giroux.
Author 1 book3 followers
November 26, 2019
I enjoyed many things about this deeply felt, big-hearted debut novel. The limpid prose. The warmth, depth, and candor about matters both personal and political. The fully drawn characters, who pulse with life--in particular, Jules, whose efforts to reconcile his grandparents to their conflicted feelings about his gender are fearless and loving. Most of all, though, I appreciated the maturity of this book. There is no "razzle-dazzle"/"all eyes on me" posing here. What you get instead is so much richer (and more entertaining): an emotional acuity, a layering of memory and feeling, that pays rare tribute to the human heart's fullness.
Profile Image for Bookgypsy.
266 reviews29 followers
October 5, 2019
It took a bit for me to get into this story but I ended up really enjoying it. the writing style is almost lyrical and very smooth. And the characters' stories weave together nicely to create an emotional journey.
Author 11 books20 followers
October 13, 2019
I love this book. It doesn't try to be loud or fast or fancy; instead it tries, and succeeds, at being true to life.
Profile Image for Dave.
59 reviews
September 30, 2019
From the very first page, you know that the author, Jim Tilley, is a poet. While the layout of the novel is obviously prose, so many of the powerful, short sentences read like lines in an elegy.
The main characters are extremely complex and well-developed. They surprise you with their ability to shake themselves out of behavioral ruts and move on with their lives, in spite of strong connections to their past.
The author clearly knows the terrain that his characters navigate: environmentalism, Quebec separatism, sexual identity conflicts, parenting, politics, live and betrayal. I sped through the book, but was a bit disappointed that parts of the story seemed to end a bit too neatly and too cleanly. I felt that all of the decades-long character conflict called for a good bit messier of an ending.
I hope we don’t have to wait too long for Tilley’s next novel.
Profile Image for Len Joy.
Author 7 books34 followers
November 9, 2019
Ralph, a hard-charging, successful attorney, suffers a mild heart attack just months before a canoe trip he has planned on the River Rouge with friends whom he has not seen in forty-five years.

I thought this might be a French-Canadian version of Deliverance (another novel written by a poet) but this canoe trip is just a backdrop for the story that unfolds. A story that includes political intrigue, environmental confrontations, and parenting challenges in a society grappling with issues of gender identity.

Like James Dickey, James Tilley has a poet’s skill for vividly painting the landscape from white water rapids to New York skylines to Cape Cod sunrises.

While Ralph is the primary character, this story has an ensemble of folks (men and women) confronting life’s “big” issues.

Ralph, wealthy and alone, reaches out to Lynn, the love he lost decades ago.

Lynn, separated from her husband, Jean-Pierre must decide whether to give up on her marriage and take a chance with Ralph, who has been less than trustworthy.

Jules, transgender son of Lynn and Jean-Pierre is trying to make his way in a brave new world and desperately wants to keep his parents together.

There are no easy answers. No pat solutions.

Tilley does a great job of writing about work. Not an easy thing to do. His characters are successful lawyers, engineers, politicians, scientists. He doesn’t overwhelm us with minutiae. He provides just enough detail so we can understand these complex characters.

Tilley, a masterful poet, has crafted an excellent debut novel.

44 reviews
November 30, 2019
This would have been a more interesting book if i knew anything about the Canadian politics and environmental issues they are undertaking. Also, the transgender dialogues were not convincing, way more issues involved were not touched upon. Those issues could have been included to make a more rounded read. However, the book is well written and has its moments of delight.
Profile Image for Kristin.
101 reviews
February 8, 2020
I'm not sure why I wanted to read this book and, having read it, can't say I am happy about it.

Too many characters (who are Peter and Dieter again? Do we even care?) especially since I ended up not really caring about any of them, even Jules, who I did like most of the book. The two female main characters irked me most of the time. They had no life or interest apart from men and they were just weak. It always seemed like there was going to be more revealed about each character but that never really happened. I found myself hoping they would drown during the river trip. Alas.

If you like to read about people who can't get over high school and are keeping grudges after 40 years, maybe you will like this book. If wind energy really turns you on and you want to read about it and how it relates to these boring people, you might like this book. I don't know who else would.
Profile Image for Kayo.
2,352 reviews27 followers
March 23, 2020
This book wasnt a fav. The characters were flat for me, and I didn't connect at all.

Thanks to publisher and Goodreads for the win of this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Profile Image for Linda.
334 reviews20 followers
January 21, 2020
Jim Tilley’s book “Against the Wind” was a bit complex and somewhat challenging for me to follow. I reread a few pages of the book for my own clarity. Following six disparate characters added interest once I was able to understand their individual issues in light of the entire story. Tilley was able to addressing several of today’s social and political issues, sexual orientation, Canadian politics and history, environmental concerns. Not understanding Canada’s politics, but knowing that the environmental issues of energy generation, social issues and family conflicts are important to us all, I appreciated the books touching on each of these themes. The family structure of grandparents, foster are or relatives raising a child with challenges is too common in today’s society; though the telling of Jule’s story is touching.

Having many years ago personally taken a 5 day wilderness Oregon Rogue River rafting trip (not the Canadian Riviere Rouge), I was intrigued by the canoe trip. Although it was not a major part of the story, for me it was a reliving of a once in a lifetime event. It provided a background in this book, connecting relationships that were important and setting the stage for the telling of the individual stories. I found Tilley’s debut novel well done and look forward to his next book.

I was provided a complementary copy of the book by the author It had no influence upon this review.
793 reviews4 followers
January 6, 2020
A story with lots of characters and lots of issues - environmentalism, Quebec separatists, transgender issues. The environmental issue, of the wind towers being built all around areas which had been unspoiled pristine wilderness and vacation spots, was my favorite part. I found the characters to be too numerous, and the author was trying to solve too many issues, so the story floated around a good bit. Ralph made his money representing big energy companies. Lynn is teaching high school English and raising a child who has decided to be transgender. Throw in Jean-Pierre, Dieter, Monique and Herve and their many relationships, and the story became a bit confusing.

I felt the story would have been better with a greater amount of editing, and possibly winnowing out some of the side stories.

I received a copy from the author, in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Karishma Sinha.
30 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2019
Set in Canada and US, this book talks about 6 characters out of which 3 have a chance encounter and their lives are braided together.
This story is mostly about Ralph and majority of the story is told from his point of view. He touches on topics like environment and transgender parenting. A new view to remind the readers how difficult it is being a man in a culture that is judged a bit harshly.
The book takes the reader through the issues that our society faces today- family breaking up, transgender child and politics of the environment.
Tilley has aptly written the characters and the challenges faced by each of them.
Profile Image for Sandra Burns.
1,700 reviews22 followers
December 30, 2019
This was a really, well written book.

The subject matter, was not my cup of tea. About cheating spouses, green energy, and a transgender. I liked reading about the journey, that Jules went through. A brave young man, sticking up for himself. I have a trans friend, who did that in the 1970's.

Since I do not live in, the area he is describing, it was hard to keep my interest.

The best part of the book, was the trip between the 4 old friends. I used to canoe, and camp, so it was something I could relate to.
Profile Image for Claire.
1,474 reviews14 followers
August 14, 2020
I couldn't make it through this writer's style more than the first chapter, even though the description sounded interesting - this is not my own copy, unlike Six Wakes, which has a very similar plot, yet I also have not read that one, just let it sit amongst my unfinished books, so I am returning this one.

I have a cat who I call Tilly. They're similar in that way. However, the book and the cat are not alike.
Profile Image for Beth.
287 reviews3 followers
September 2, 2020
This was an interesting read. I enjoy the book. I did like that the author wrote from different points of view. I liked following the characters and getting to really know a lot of them instead of one or two main characters. I also enjoyed that the book took place in Canada and the UNited States and a short view from Germany.
My issue is it felt like a lot of little plots not one big one, while most were most wrapped up but not all of them.

I won this book on goodreads, but the opinion is mine.
Profile Image for Allison.
106 reviews5 followers
January 2, 2020
I got this for free from a Goodreads giveaway. I appreciate the book and the chance to write an honest review. I seem to be the opposite of most of the reviewers here. While I didn't much care about the environmental debate, I found the characters and their stories more interesting, especially Jules. While a couple of the characters grated on my nerves, they seemed like real people with real problems. Some of the Canadian history was lost on me but I learned some things I hadn't known.
8 reviews
July 17, 2020
I received this book as a Giveaway win.

I found the book to be at first difficult to get into as I did not have a full understanding of the geopolitical background of Canada's major cities. Within a few chapters however, I found the book both interesting and realistic in dealing with today's realities of life, family intricate functions and major environmental concerns. I do recommend this compelling read!
Profile Image for Shalini.
6 reviews
December 2, 2019
I liked the environmental debate that was followed throughout the novel, but I found it difficult to get invested in the characters. It seemed to jump around a lot between the different storylines, and I was never rooting for one person to get something or another. I think that there was too much going on that each character and storyline could never develop to its full potential.
80 reviews3 followers
October 21, 2019
I received a free copy of this novel from Goodreads. I thought that it was ok, just ok. Though I felt it was well written I just couldn't connect with it. When it comes to the point that I just don't care about the characters, I know that this book wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Amy Gressell.
243 reviews4 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 8, 2020
Between taking a 5-day break and losing my momentum, and way too much technical detail about wind turbines (I mean, why do we care?), this one didn't stand a chance. The dialogue was amateurish too, which didn't help. Moving on...
Profile Image for Rachelle.
167 reviews
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
November 23, 2019
I tried 3 times to read this book and it could not keep my interest.
Profile Image for Marlys.
1,043 reviews5 followers
December 26, 2019
This is a fabulous debut novel. I could not put it down. I liked the way the characters' lives braided together. I highly recommend this book.
1 review
January 12, 2020
I really enjoyed this book. The writing is so smart and concise it can't be skimmed. It's a book that feels like a friend is trusting you with the truth. Not to be missed.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
574 reviews28 followers
March 10, 2020
Not good. The writing was all over the place. There was too much content that did not further the storyline of any of the characters. And it ended on a terrible note. Hard Pass!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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