From National Book Award finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home comes a “powerful, beautifully crafted” (People) 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.
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. “Thompson’s new novel draws the reader in with character and plot…but what ultimately holds the reader enthralled is…her ability to capture the nuance of individual moments, thoughts, and reactions. No one writing today is better at this…[an] extraordinary novel” (Washington Independent Review of Books).
Thompson's incisive, intricate novel centers on three generations of women living in a small, unnamed Midwestern college town. Evelyn Wise worked as a history professor during WWII, and after the war married Andrew. Evelyn's greatest happiness in life seemed to stem from her career achievements which included work for the League of Women Voters rather than marrying and raising her two children, Laura and Mark. Laura held career ambitions that paled next to her desire to marry and have a family. Her post-college partying lifestyle led to her meeting Gabe Arnold, a graduate student studying computer science who seemed to be more of an adult than any of the boys she knew. They have two children, Grace and Michael. Grace has now finished college and works at a health food store in town, while Michael struggles with substance abuse and his halting music career. Laura takes on the role of caregiver for Evelyn, who is dying from cancer, and Gabe, who is an alcoholic. Grace struggles to not repeat her mother's mistakes, determined to live life on her own terms. As Thompson (Who Do You Love) examines the present and past of each of the three generations of women, she adroitly reveals how their life experiences shaped them into being so different from one another. Intense, compassionate, and satisfying, Thompson's novel is filled with real, complex characters whose destinies are inextricably tied to the women in their lives.