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Windy City: A Novel of Politics by Scott…

Windy City: A Novel of Politics

by Scott Simon

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Something different today: a political novel. Scott Simon's Windy City. It's the story of Sunny Roopini, an alderman with the city of Chicago who becomes the temporary mayor when the mayor is murdered. It sounds like a mystery, but the mystery elements are kept to the background.

It's a story about politics, and a real eye-opener about the wheeling-dealing that goes on behind the scenes as aldermen jockey for favours and have political ambitions beyond municipal politics. My mother was an alderman for Kitchener back some thirty years ago, and I don't remember this kind of stuff going on, but a city as large and influential as Chicago is functioning on a whole different level. Plus, this is America, not Canada.

It's the story of Sunny Roopini, a man who expects to be the acting mayor for 3 days until a new mayor is elected. He runs his Indian food restaurant, his wife was murdered in a botched robbery a year ago, and he is trying to raise 2 teenage daughters who have become distant. He is trying to do his best by the city he loves and in the footsteps of the larger-than-life mayor whom he also loved. Sunny is witty, thoughtful, ethical, smart, worldly, and loyal - a great character.

This is also a tribute to Chicago, a contemporary city with a lot of history and racial/class diversity; a city that the author obviously loves.

The writing is lyrical in its descriptions, yet somehow comfortable, too. I must confess that there were times I didn't get what the characters were talking about, but I attributed that to my lack of political savvy. It's not a novel that I rushed through in a day; it took some time and a little effort to work this one out. In the end, it was different than anything I have read before, and I truly enjoyed it. ( )
  cmeps | Apr 15, 2014 |
Loved the book - needs to be made into a movie! ( )
  yukon92 | Oct 17, 2010 |
Loose ends. Too many characters. Too much local color and too many inside jokes.

But it's Chicago. No. CHICAGO.

I loved it. ( )
  jmcilree | Jul 25, 2008 |
In Windy City, Scott Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition, gives readers a fun and funny whirlwind tour of modern Chicago politics - and it's not your father's Chicago politics. Heck, as someone just old enough to remember the first Mayor Daley, it's not even my generation's Chicago politics. Campaign finance limits and open government laws (not to mention limits on indoor smoking) have pushed even Chicago pols out of the smoke-filled back room and into the sunshine. No, it's not clean government Wisconsin (but then neither is Wisconsin anymore!), but at least voting mostly terminates with breathing.

Windy City opens with the legendary African-American mayor of the `City that Works' face down in his Quattro's pizza. He's not drunk or exhausted, he's dead. As the reader soon learns, the Mayor has been murdered. Enter our protagonist, Sundaran `Sunny' Roopini, alderman from the 48th and thrust into the role of Acting Interim Mayor for three days until the city council chooses one of its own to serve as successor until the next election.

Solving the murder gets shove aside as the book centers around the struggle to get enough votes from the council's 50 members. Simon deftly explores Chicago's multi-ethnic politics along with its multi-ethnic restaurants. Roopini is the widowed restaurateur of an Indian restaurant that also serves Sunny Roopini's Italian Specialities (his vowel-ended name suggest Italian origins to some potential customers and he's not going to turn them away.)! Sunny beats the bushes for alderman Vera Barrow and most of his work takes place in various ethnic dining and drinking establishments - and a couple churches, too. Food is a center point second only to politics.

The politics are not entirely clean and Roopini also spends some time answering the inquiries of US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. And the politics are definitely played with sharpened elbows.

Simon captures the multi-faceted motivations of these politicians. They want to serve people and see their own ideas implemented. They also want to continue serving and thus must also attend to the needs, wants, and desires of their constituents. The book illustrates Tip O'Neill's adage that `all politics is local'. Fight for your high-flown principles, pal, but you better get the snow plowed and the potholes filled. Any elected official of even the smallest township will recognize some ultimate truths of politics in Windy City.

Seemingly in an effort to introduce over-the-top humor, Simon slips into occasional flights of fancy that threaten to send the book crashing into the green waters of the Chicago River. The book does not need it; Simon's caricatures of the pols and the politics are strong enough without the silliness. Highly recommended. ( )
  dougwood57 | Jul 17, 2008 |
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The mayor of Chicago is found in his office late at night, sitting in his boxer shorts, facedown dead in a pizza. The mayor was a hero and a rascal: dynamic, charming, ingenious, corruptible, and a masterly manipulator. The city mourns. But it’s discovered that the mayor was murdered–shortly after he may have begun to squeal on some of his colleagues at City Hall. Over the next four days, police race to find the mayor’s killer, while the politicians who bemoan his passing scramble for his throne.

At the center is Sundaran “Sunny” Roopini, forty-eight, alderman of the Forty-eighth Ward, and vice-mayor. Sunny is an Indian immigrant, a restaurant owner, and a recent widower. He is getting tired of politics and wants to hold on just long enough to do the best for his two restive teenage daughters. But as acting interim mayor for a few days, Sunny must deal with forty-nine other aldermen who have their own clashing ambitions.
How will Sunny do what’s best for both his family and city in a time of crisis?

As The Last Hurrah embodied urban politics for a previous generation, Windy City captures politics in the multiethnic tumult of today’s big city, where a stalled subway raises fears of a terrorist attack and smoke-filled rooms are abolished by no-smoking statutes. The story takes a raft of colorful characters–pinky-ringed pols, pious reformers, money-grubbers, and wheeler-dealers of every creed, color, and proclivity–through City Hall corridors, neighborhood restaurants and clubs, weddings, sex scandals, gospel churches, police stations, and sting operations to deliver an ending that is unexpectedly noble.

Windy City is a roller coaster of a novel that dips and soars through the amusement park of politics. With echoes of Primary Colors and Thank You for Smoking, Windy City will win votes as the best political novel in many years. Its personal story–about a flawed, decent man thrust suddenly under hot lights–will also win hearts.
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A widower transplanted from India with two Americanized daughters, Sonny Roopini, an alderman in Chicago's city government, finds himself thrust into the limelight thanks to the sudden death of the mayor.

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