I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson
on Oct 23, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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From National Book Award finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home comes a moving family saga about three generations of women who struggle to find freedom and happiness in their small Midwestern college town.
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.
Evelyn set aside her career to marry, late, and motherhood never became her. Her daughter Laura felt this acutely and wants desperately to marry, but she soon discovers her husband Gabe to be a man who expects too much of everyone in his life, especially his musician son. Grace has moved out from Laura and Gabe’s house, but can’t seem to live up to her potential—whatever that might be.
In A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?
Evelyn, Laura, and Grace are the glue that binds their family together. Tethered to their small Midwestern town—by choice or chance—Jean Thompson seamlessly weaves together the stories of the Wise women with humanity and elegance, through their heartbreaks, setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies.
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl delves deeply into the lives of three generations of the Wise family. Evelyn is the matriarch of the family and although her life is close to an end, we do get a deeper understanding of her life and that of her daughter Laura and granddaughter Grace. This is not a happy tale and it does discuss issues that are relevant in many families such as marriage issues, cheating, substance abuse, and the life choices one makes.
I do admit that I had a hard time really getting into the story for the first forty pages and I did put the book down a couple of times, but once Evelyn’s story picks up I found myself thoroughly engrossed in her life and the choices that she made. I often think back to stories my own grandmother tells me about what it was like growing up especially during wartime and how life was like in her family growing up and I couldn’t help but relate this to Evelyn. I think a lot of times people tend to forget it was a different time back then especially with societal views on women working, marriage and babies. Evelyn has a late start in life getting married and having her first child and I can see the struggles she went through with motherhood and having an older husband.
Laura wants to be better than her mother and often finds herself the peacemaker in her own family. She worries constantly about her children and wants better for them than how her own life turned out. She is mostly content in her marriage although it is not always a happy one. Laura does not do well with conflict and tends to not speak up at times because she does not want to make waves within her family. But in reality, she is the peacemaker and the glue that holds her family together.
Grace has always felt like she never belonged in her family. She thinks of herself as an outsider looking in. She does not have much of a relationship with her father. Her brother has his music and drug of choice and her mother never seems to understand her. In truth, she is very much a rebel and still trying to find her place in this world. Grace wanted to be different. She didn’t want the life her mother had and in a way she never fit in the mold of the family dynamic.
I can see why Jean Thompson is a New York Times best selling author. Her writing is absolutely beautiful and lyrical. She has such a way of drawing you right in and engrossing you into the lives of the Wise women and the choices they have made in their lives. This is not a happy story. It is strife with heartbreak and sorrow, but at the same time it is also real. Thompson shows that through all of the heartache that there can also be a light at the end of the tunnel.
One thing I would like to mention is the title of this story and while I was reading, I wasn’t sure what the symbolism would mean and once it is revealed, I can clearly see why this story was named A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. It was so poetic and so fitting.
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant and moving story that will evoke every emotion out of you. Jean Thompson has an extraordinary gift of writing and I can see why she is well loved by her readers. This is a book I can highly recommend.