The Cow in the Doorway

Love and Loss in the Time of Pot and Protest

Young Adult - Coming of Age
308 Pages
Reviewed on 02/11/2016
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Author Biography

Gino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: "Bad decisions make good stories," and Mel Brooks' advice that "You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT."

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Cow in the Doorway is a young adult/new adult coming of age novel written by Gino Bardi. Tony Vitelli was not all that sure he really wanted to go to Cornell University despite the excited urgings of his father. He’d feel a lot more comfortable going to SUNY at Plattsburgh, especially since it had a good English Department, which was, after all, his major. His father wouldn’t hear about it, however, Cornell was Ivy League and they wanted him. He knew Tony was more than capable of surviving Cornell, even if he did get left back in first grade -- something he had never let Tony forget. The stakes, though, as far as Tony was concerned, were much higher than whether he’d be able to get good enough grades to remain a Cornell undergrad. It was 1969 and the draft boards were anxiously waiting to get their hands on any student coasting on a student deferment. And Tony definitely did not want to go to Vietnam. Unable to resist his dad’s exuberance any longer, Tony signed the acceptance papers and waited for the weeks to pass until he left Long Island for Ithaca, New York.

Gino Bardi’s historical coming of age story, The Cow in the Doorway, takes place in tumultuous times, and the reader gets to see them through the eyes of Tony, a slightly naive and self-deprecating freshman navigating the halls of Cornell University. There’s that unforgettable college town and the environs of Ithaca, and the relentless inclination to party and procrastinate juxtaposed with the ominous overtones of a war that Tony doesn’t believe in and dreads as a part of his future. It’s been some time since I visited Cornell to attend a folk festival, and I loved having my memories of the gorge, the campus and college town revived and given color and intensity once again. Bardi captures the atmosphere and the tension hanging over students in the late 1960s perfectly, and his dramatic descriptions of the chaos and terror that became what was to have been an orderly demonstration masterfully shows the feeling many students had at the time; that somehow they had become dissociated from the rest of society, and that no one cared if they came home in a box from a war that no one wanted.

The Cow in the Doorway is sheer bliss for anyone who experienced those years, and, no doubt, will have younger readers wistfully wishing that they had been there as well. Tony Vitelli, Country Bob, Steve, the draft-dodging fugitive, and a cast of marvelous characters await the intrepid reader, and I, having finished this book, envy them the experience. The Cow in the Doorway is a most highly recommended debut offering from a talented new author, and I’m anxious to see just what he comes up with next.