Happy Friday! Today I have a review of A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, the newest book by author Jean Thompson and available on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 from Simon Schuster!
I’ve read wonderful things about Jean Thompson’s The Year We Left Home, so I was eager to read A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl! What an ethereal and beautiful title, by the way!
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is the story of three generations of women in the Wise family. What an emotional story Grace, Evelyn, and Laura have to tell.
At the root of each woman’s life is something we can all probably relate to- feelings of not measuring up. Evelyn, the grandmother and matriarch, did not take easily to motherhood. Laura, her daughter, marries a man who is hard on everyone and conveys to their son that he does not meet expectations. Grace is Laura’s daughter, and she is not able to meet expectations whether they be her own or otherwise.
The focus is on each of these women and the strain they feel, the longing, the desperation. We experience every aspect of their trials and tribulations as they travel through life and time. How do we pass down our own stressors, experiences, and false expectations to our younger generations? Can a woman ever get out from under these harsh expectations?
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl has a somber, melancholic tone. These women have hard lives emotionally, and they carry their burdens outwardly. It made me think about its important message, and I really appreciate it: how much of my own life has been shaped by the women in my family who modeled for me, who experienced their own trials long before I came to be?
On a personal note, in my maternal family, the women are stronger than the men for the most part. Sorry to my male forebears, but it’s true. The women were the glue holding their families together, the ones who raised children while husbands were off to war, who never complained, never had an ailment, were hardly emotional. I wonder now if this set expectations for me to follow in this same mold (the mold that was firmly cast based on THEIR experiences), and I would say in many ways I have. But at the same time, I don’t meet every standard set for me, and perhaps that does affect my self-worth at times.
That was a little more personal than I typically delve in my reviews, but this book resonated with me. Everyone has “stuff” they carry through life and their own experiences, good and bad. Just how much of our “stuff” is predetermined by the environment we grow up in and the shaping and modeling we receive by those important to us? I enjoyed this self-reflective journey, and I don’t mind a somber read when the message is an evocative one. Thanks to Jean Thompson for the insight.
Thank you to Simon Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this ARC. All opinions are my own.
From National Book Award finalist and the New York Timesbestselling 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.
Have you read A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR