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A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

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“There’s not a false note in this powerful, beautifully crafted exploration of the trade-offs in women’s lives.” —People 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 t “There’s not a false note in this powerful, beautifully crafted exploration of the trade-offs in women’s lives.” —People 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.


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“There’s not a false note in this powerful, beautifully crafted exploration of the trade-offs in women’s lives.” —People 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 t “There’s not a false note in this powerful, beautifully crafted exploration of the trade-offs in women’s lives.” —People 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.

30 review for A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    3.5 stars Let’s face it. There’s probably a little dysfunction in all of our families, and I’ll admit to my own, but I have to say up front, the dysfunction here with a cast of miserably, unhappy characters, unhappy with each other and with themselves, was more than I could relate to. The novel focuses on three generations of women. Evelyn is dying and we learn that she’s led an unsatisfying life, resentful that she gave up her dreams and ambitions when she marries and has children who she never 3.5 stars Let’s face it. There’s probably a little dysfunction in all of our families, and I’ll admit to my own, but I have to say up front, the dysfunction here with a cast of miserably, unhappy characters, unhappy with each other and with themselves, was more than I could relate to. The novel focuses on three generations of women. Evelyn is dying and we learn that she’s led an unsatisfying life, resentful that she gave up her dreams and ambitions when she marries and has children who she never really has a motherly bond with. Her daughter Laura, is also in an unhappy marriage, giving her all to her family, but her family is dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse, later an illness, and a distance between her and her daughter. No matter how hard Laura tries, she is not able to keep her daughter Grace from wanting to get away from all of them. No character is without flaws and we learn of secrets held by both Evelyn and Laura. I especially liked the writing in the beginning. While most of the narrative is in chapters named for these three women, the opening chapter is told without names. I thought that it laid out Evelyn’s story really well, the time in this country around the war, what is happening as Evelyn is dying and what Laura is going through without even mentioning their names. While I was hard pressed to find a character that I liked, there were moments when I felt for them and moments when I was heartened by their actions. I read and loved Thompson’s The Year We Left Home and I remember feeling more of a connection with those characters. In spite of my reservations, I thought she did a commendable job of depicting some realistic, relatable issues and emotions : alcoholism, drug addiction, Illness, death, grief, and heartbreaking family tragedy. The lingering question throughout is whether Grace will be able to break from her mother and grandmother’s lives filled with dissatisfaction. Anyone who read this will have to decide for themselves. I read this with Diane and Esil as our monthly buddy read. I received an advanced copy of this book from Simon and Schuster through NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    2.5 I had a very negative reaction to this story. Don't get me wrong, the writing is extremely well done, but the book was just so, well for me, a Debbie downer. Three generations of women, unhappy families to the extreme. Nary a glimpse of joy. Never connected with the chsrscters, so I didn't feel sorry for the as did my wonderful reading partners, Esil and Angela. To me, they were like cardboard characters, so obvious and stereotypical. Unhappy, martyr like women, drugs alcohol, infidelity, su 2.5 I had a very negative reaction to this story. Don't get me wrong, the writing is extremely well done, but the book was just so, well for me, a Debbie downer. Three generations of women, unhappy families to the extreme. Nary a glimpse of joy. Never connected with the chsrscters, so I didn't feel sorry for the as did my wonderful reading partners, Esil and Angela. To me, they were like cardboard characters, so obvious and stereotypical. Unhappy, martyr like women, drugs alcohol, infidelity, surprise pregancies and illness. What more could be thrown in? There were a few surprises near the end, and even a glimpse of hope that this cycle could be broken. I just had a hard time absorbing this much unhappiness. I loved her previous book, and will read her next because she is a fine writer. Plus, not everyone reacts the same way to a story, and you may be in s completely different reading mood. Best that in mind. ARC from Netgalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    "What if your life sneaked up behind you, tapped you on the shoulder, and said, Guess what, I'm already here." A Cloud in the shape of a girl follows the story of three women, Evelyn, Laura, and Grace. Three generations of women from one family and their lives, their loves, their choices and the men in their lives. Each woman has something she is dealing with ranging from marital issues, infidelity, heartbreak, addiction, dysfunction with the family, secrets, longing and coming to terms with deat "What if your life sneaked up behind you, tapped you on the shoulder, and said, Guess what, I'm already here." A Cloud in the shape of a girl follows the story of three women, Evelyn, Laura, and Grace. Three generations of women from one family and their lives, their loves, their choices and the men in their lives. Each woman has something she is dealing with ranging from marital issues, infidelity, heartbreak, addiction, dysfunction with the family, secrets, longing and coming to terms with death. "I have lived my life sandwiched between two angry women." Each of the women in this book are stuck in their lives. Stuck with the choices they have made, being too comfortable being uncomfortable. The book deals with many issues/themes - addiction, infidelity, pregnancy, illness, dying, and heartbreak to name a few. I found this to be a bleak book with very little happiness. I think one must be in the mood to read such a book. The writing is very good and some of the characters may be relate-able. Evelyn gave up her career aspirations for a family - for children that she struggled to bond with. Laura is her daughter and she lives in an unhappy marriage with a husband who drinks way too much and a son who is in and out of rehab. Grace is Laura's daughter and she keeps her family at arm's length. She also makes poor choices in terms of who she lets in her life and the reader is left to wonder if Grace will in fact, break free from the cycle and find a way to live a satisfying life. This book felt like a character study on sadness. It shows how patterns can be repeated, how not having a healthy relationship to use as a model, that children may grow up to repeat their parent's patterns and about relationships. This book shows how choices, no matter how big or small can affect and change one's life. There is a lot to think about in this book, which would make this book a good book club choice. Very well written somber story about three women in one family. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    4 insightful stars to A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 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 u 4 insightful stars to A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 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. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    ”There's no mercy in a live wire No rest at all in freedom Of the choices we are given it's no choice at all The proof is in the fire You touch before it moves away But you must always know how long to stay and when to go “And there ain't no talkin' to this man He's been tryin' to tell me so It took awhile to understand the beauty of just letting go Cause it would take an acrobat, I already tried all that I'm gonna let him fly” -- Let Him Fly, Patty Griffin, Songwriters: Patty Griffin https://www.youtube. ”There's no mercy in a live wire No rest at all in freedom Of the choices we are given it's no choice at all The proof is in the fire You touch before it moves away But you must always know how long to stay and when to go “And there ain't no talkin' to this man He's been tryin' to tell me so It took awhile to understand the beauty of just letting go Cause it would take an acrobat, I already tried all that I'm gonna let him fly” -- Let Him Fly, Patty Griffin, Songwriters: Patty Griffin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVLuE... Alma Mater, “To thy happy children of the future Those of the past send greetings ” When Lorado Taft (1860-1936) created Alma Mater, a statue including three figures at the University of Illinois, he wanted to portray ‘Our Mother’ as a “majestic woman in scholastic robes, who rises from her throne generously greeting her children,” advancing with open arms, welcoming her children. The second and third figures, he proposed, were to be “subordinate” figures. ‘Learning’ clasping hands with ‘Labor,’ hands meeting over the back of the chair. This quote, the inscription on the statue Alma Mater appears, alone, on the first page, showing the connection and relationship of the three, as well as the elevated status of the Mother figure. Our mothers may have welcomed us into the world, but for these three women, it doesn’t make the relationships between these three women easy, or demonstrative, or loving. Neither are they contentious or bitter, so much as they just… are. Three generations of women, whose lives seem to be a variation on a theme, not happy but also not unhappy, melancholic in their frazzled, unappreciated, underappreciated lives that feel as though these women were always waiting for permission to live the lives they wanted, instead of the ones they ended up living. The men they ended up, they blame, as though these men had been assigned them instead of recognizing they held some responsibility for the choices they made. The feeling of all the passion for life they once had, tamped down by these men. Evelyn had ambitions – once upon a time, and at a time when women rarely were encouraged to pursue such things as a Ph.D. It is just after the end of World War II when she meets Rusty at college, a veteran who was there courtesy of Uncle Sam, and a love affair soon follows. He leaves to return to his family farm, and soon thereafter Evelyn realizes she is carrying his child. Hastily, she marries Andrew, a professor, in hopes that he will believe this child is his, but soon after, miscarries. Eventually they will have two children, Laura and Andrew, and she will play her dutiful role as mother, but with some resentment attached for the loss of her unfulfilled dreams. Laura doesn’t want to be like her mother, she thinks of her mother as emotionally distant, and Laura isn’t focused on pursuing a “career.” Her courtship with the man who becomes her husband, a computer genius, changes quickly when he proves to be too offensive to her long-standing friends, and they begin to distance themselves. Looking for love, or the closest substitute, she runs into an old friend of her brother, Bob, and nine months later, Grace is born. Eventually, a son, Michael will be born, as well. As years pass, Laura struggles between helping to care for her mother, whose health is declining, with the end only a matter of time, her husband whose fondness of alcohol has become a problem, her son will eventually turn to drugs. Tensions will run high. Grace works at a health-food store, no longer living in her parent’s home. Will she also make unhealthy choices / decisions in men, or will she learn to recognize how unhealthy choices can change the course of your life. Years ago, I read another novel by this author, which I didn’t realize until I saw the name of the book,The Year We Left Home a five star read for me. Similar to A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, both are stories that focus on ordinary lives, lives where very little happens or changes, and yet… everything does. That is the nature of life. It changes. Sacrifice, bitterness, resentment, forgiveness are all themes in this story. While the writing is often lovely, this did get a bit bogged down for me for a short while, but I ended up really enjoying, and appreciating this story. Pub Date: 23 OCT 2018 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bam

    *3.5 stars rounded up. This is the story of three generations of the women of one family but broadens towards the end to deeply examine the family dysfunction of the last generation--father, mother, son and daughter. The father has a drinking problem and mentally abuses his children, most especially his son who cannot live up to his father's expectations and turns to drugs. The daughter is belittled by her father but more often feels ignored for the most part. The mother is the peacekeeper, tryin *3.5 stars rounded up. This is the story of three generations of the women of one family but broadens towards the end to deeply examine the family dysfunction of the last generation--father, mother, son and daughter. The father has a drinking problem and mentally abuses his children, most especially his son who cannot live up to his father's expectations and turns to drugs. The daughter is belittled by her father but more often feels ignored for the most part. The mother is the peacekeeper, trying to keep everyone happy, hoping they can all play nice and get along. The husband tends to blame her for coddling the son and causing his problems; she hopes family counseling will help. Too little, too late? Yes, this story is wrenching and depressing, but so well written! Thompson makes you feel what these people are going through. I get excited when a novel helps me examine something about my own prejudices, experiences, thoughts and beliefs. I dare you not to read this book and not think about your mother. Or perhaps you will see yourself in these women? I relived my role as family peacekeeper when my daughters were young, trying to make everyone happy, settle squabbles. It's a truly thankless job! My husband was not abusive at all to our children but was old-school: strict and demanding. It was a family joke that my husband was lucky he never had sons because he was hard enough on the girls. But I had an aha moment while reading this story--were we implying that less was expected of our daughters because they were not boys? I mentioned this to my husband and he was taken aback too. We always told them they could be whatever they wanted to be--just to follow their passion and the money will follow. But is that strictly true in today's economy? In this story, the son has talent and a passion for music but can't seem to support himself with it. And the daughter loves English literature but with her degree, she might as well have 'unemployable' tattooed on her forehead, according to her father. The story examines the reality of the job market for this latest generation, how hard it is to find a job that pays a living wage. Another part of the plot that is wrenching is dealing with the dying process of our mothers, both during and afterwards. I have lived through that myself and this story brought back many painful memories. I really had enough of this story when it came to funerals, I have to admit. This is a book to be read slowly and mulled over. Are you like your own mother or have you gone in the other direction? I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review. Many thanks. I look forward to reading more of this author's work. She's a very fine writer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3 stars Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the chance to read this novel. Published on October 9, 2018. This was a book that I probably would have set down, if it were not that I was reading it with a group. But because I was, I forged on, and am now fairly happy that I did. The first half of this book was frustrating. I felt the characters were shallow and basically portrayed people who I try hard not to associate with. The story tells of three generations of women. First Evelyn, 3 stars Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the chance to read this novel. Published on October 9, 2018. This was a book that I probably would have set down, if it were not that I was reading it with a group. But because I was, I forged on, and am now fairly happy that I did. The first half of this book was frustrating. I felt the characters were shallow and basically portrayed people who I try hard not to associate with. The story tells of three generations of women. First Evelyn, who was forced to conform and marry, when it was not what she wanted. Second was the peace maker Laura, who blamed herself for everyone else's problems. Lastly came Grace, who having no self confidence, was trying to find her place in life. I actually think the author did a good job in portraying these women, because I had such a visceral dislike for them. In the second half of the book there was sadness. More sadness than even in the first half. Due to two deaths more intermediate people were brought into the story. This half of the story centered mostly on drug abuse and played out the way a lot of families actually go through it. This half also began to resolve some of the secrets and lies that had plagued the story. This is the first novel I have read by Jean Thompson, so hate to do her a disservice by condemning her book or writing. I will say that even though I disliked her characters, she wrote them well enough to get that reaction from me. I would hesitantly read another novel by Thompson, but would first check it out making sure that it's subject matter was not as bleak and sorrowful as this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    3+ stars A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is the third novel I read in a short time span dealing with the generational divide between millennials and baby boomers. The two others were Unsheltered and Boomer1. Each one of them had a heavy bleak undertone. This was not exception. The writing was good, but it was hard to like these self-pitying self-destructive characters. In the face of a real crisis, they seem to make all the wrong decisions. This was monthly read with Angela and Diane. I’m long ove 3+ stars A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is the third novel I read in a short time span dealing with the generational divide between millennials and baby boomers. The two others were Unsheltered and Boomer1. Each one of them had a heavy bleak undertone. This was not exception. The writing was good, but it was hard to like these self-pitying self-destructive characters. In the face of a real crisis, they seem to make all the wrong decisions. This was monthly read with Angela and Diane. I’m long overdue with my review. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    For those who aren’t familiar with Jean Thompson, a word of warning—her books do not have page-turning action or swiftly moving plots (at least the ones I’ve read). Instead, like this one, her novels are character-based, and her style is often meditative. When something dramatic happens, it isn’t like a bomb going off, but rather like the bottom fell out. She does not pander to boilerplate blockbusters, or pad her story with popular platitudes. Thompson’s narrative is subtle, intelligent, with t For those who aren’t familiar with Jean Thompson, a word of warning—her books do not have page-turning action or swiftly moving plots (at least the ones I’ve read). Instead, like this one, her novels are character-based, and her style is often meditative. When something dramatic happens, it isn’t like a bomb going off, but rather like the bottom fell out. She does not pander to boilerplate blockbusters, or pad her story with popular platitudes. Thompson’s narrative is subtle, intelligent, with themes that compel you to examine our culture. Is your agency governed by choice or by decree? Does history determine your future? As women, are we bound to roles passed down by our mothers? How can we fix our lives when mired in a damaged, dysfunctional family? In this story of three generations of women, spanning over 80 years, the questions of legacy and expectations—both your own and your parents’—are addressed. Three generations of Wise women, in a small midwestern town, with their various ambitions and stifled longings, are keenly portrayed in this story. Evelyn, well educated, taught college during WW II, taking advantage of the vacancies when men went off to war. She was an unconventional thinker and assertive achiever who married late and had children even later. She capitulated to choices against her nature, and paid for it with growing resentment and ill-disposed mothering. Evelyn lived in the shadow of her husband—the conduct of the good wife, while she was devoured by custom and housework. Evelyn’s daughter, Laura, was unlike her mother; she was obliging and pliable and sought love and marriage. Eventually, she settled for an unruly and moody alcoholic, and took a backseat to his will. Her minor career offered meager satisfaction, and she tried to be the glue in her family. Laura coddled her self-destructive son and took her daughter, Grace, for granted; she expected Grace to be accommodating to the men in the family. Now in her twenties, Grace wants more for herself, but she’s stuck in a matrilineal legacy. She carries her burden with dread, and is caught in a battle of wills. The pace moves gently as the characters deepen and troubles increase, but there’s an urgency growling subtly beneath the narrative. It’s a pull and push, a tug of war, a war of the women in the quagmire of history. “And yet history shifted underneath your feet…The present was a dizzy perch that every so often began to spin and slide…You held onto your life with both hands, you told yourself to pay attention to this moment, the here and now. But one minute passed into the next, and at some point you looked back and everything was over and people called it history.” 4.5 rounded up

  10. 5 out of 5

    ʚϊɞ Shelley ʚϊɞ

    If you want to know who really loves you, look around and see who’s still standing next to you. This is a story about relationships and finding one’s true self. The pace of the novel is measured and slowly builds, allowing the reader to be gently taken along for the ride. No major plot twists or adventure, this is a slice-of-life narrative that gives a peek into someone else's life. The characters are intriguing, quirky and classic Thompson. She would never manage to break free from her family If you want to know who really loves you, look around and see who’s still standing next to you. This is a story about relationships and finding one’s true self. The pace of the novel is measured and slowly builds, allowing the reader to be gently taken along for the ride. No major plot twists or adventure, this is a slice-of-life narrative that gives a peek into someone else's life. The characters are intriguing, quirky and classic Thompson. She would never manage to break free from her family or cast off its legacy of unhappy women. Jean Thompson is such a gifted writer that over the years I have read a lot of her books. She has the ability to use small and seemly insignificant details, but these just add to the feeling of reality. She never seems to miss anything happening around her and adds them to enhance her tales. This particular novel covers three generations of women, the story of a small life lived in big steps, and about the opportunities for self-discovery, self-realization and the missed chances to change ones path. Here coffin that slowly passes, I give you my sprig of lilac. The simplicity of the writing is so natural and so beautiful that although I wanted to finish it, I was sad when I did. A delightful read. Thank you NetGalley, Simon Schuster and Jean Thompson for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own. #ACloudInTheShapeOfAGirl #NetGalley

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Mara

    Sad, raw and depressing. Three generations of women who have been suffocated/stifled from their full potential/achievements, true loves, and instead are living a life of yearning and servitude and playing as peacemakers. The men in these three generations also have their own issues of being controlling and manipulative and with pressures of maintaining a high successful profile; the last generation not being able to meet any of these expectations. He’s an out of control addict, alcoholic, an off Sad, raw and depressing. Three generations of women who have been suffocated/stifled from their full potential/achievements, true loves, and instead are living a life of yearning and servitude and playing as peacemakers. The men in these three generations also have their own issues of being controlling and manipulative and with pressures of maintaining a high successful profile; the last generation not being able to meet any of these expectations. He’s an out of control addict, alcoholic, an off/on band player, has been in and out of rehab, hates his father, treats his mother horribly, defies society /authoritative standards. Overall, a very dysfunctional family tale. We all know that dysfunctional relationships do not work normally and are not happy or successful. This is the entire plot of this story. I enjoyed the writing at the beginning of the story; it was good and it held promise. Somewhere around mid- point, it went downhill, and it went down fast. The same old story being repeated through generations. Like mother, like daughter; like father, like son; on and on. Yes, I could see this as a valid family’s story, but, it was quite overwhelming to this reader. No one really was able to get out of this unending dismal rut, though they tried, but did they really try or did they not try hard enough? Stuck in the same place, with the same people, with similar sins. The unending cycle of co-dependency. I really wanted to yell something out to each and every one of them to break the chains that bind, but they were all so embedded and resentful of their lives and family members. The women were up for martyrdom; they were subservient, always putting others before themselves and before their own wants and needs. A Thanksgiving dinner segment with the family was so very full of angst and was painful to read. The weird guy that picked up Grace at her workplace was totally inappropriate and a very scuzzy individual. I so disliked his character. He was a user/manipulator; yet she took up with him. Why, Grace? Why? Where is your head? This is not helping, it’s just adding to the hurt. This is all so hopeless! More suffering and victimizing; more of not being able to stand up for yourself and just say no. They were all so maddening! Back to the alcohol. Back to the drugs. Back to bad behavior. Back to making poor choices. Back to arguing and fighting. Back to trying to make and keep the peace with the family. Back to making excuses and bailing one or the other out time after time. Back to running away from difficulties instead of working through them. It just did not seem as if there was ever going to be any kind of hope or moving forward for these characters and it was actually quite depressing to read and to literally get pulled into their bleak, unhappy lives. The ending did bring some hope and perspective but not without things getting much, much worse before they got better. 3.0 unhappy, dismal stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    The novel of male discontent and melancholy has been at the center of American literature for a long time, but more and more I see the rise of its long overdue female counterpart. The novel of male discontent (almost always a straight cis white male, well-off, and successful) has always been a mystery to me. Its central question seems to be, "Why am I so unhappy?" and the answer is usually nothing more than that this is inherent to life, that it is unescapable. The two men in this book could eas The novel of male discontent and melancholy has been at the center of American literature for a long time, but more and more I see the rise of its long overdue female counterpart. The novel of male discontent (almost always a straight cis white male, well-off, and successful) has always been a mystery to me. Its central question seems to be, "Why am I so unhappy?" and the answer is usually nothing more than that this is inherent to life, that it is unescapable. The two men in this book could easily have each had their own novel of male discontent out of the story presented in this book. It is good that they do not. A CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL does not push too hard against this tradition in that the women in this book are also straight, cis, white, and well-off. You can see them inhabiting the same world as many of those other novels of male discontent. There is much that you'll recognize from those books: affairs, death, and the cage of family. But just by tweaking the formula enough to look at women instead of men, this book cannot look at the world and wonder why we are unhappy and just blame life itself. There are many reasons. Piles and piles of reasons. And at the center of it is a pair of culprits: the discontented man and the complex woman. There are three women in this book, Evelyn, her daughter Laura, and her daughter Grace. We get to live a little as each of them and any woman who has had a mother or a daughter will recognize the way that small and large differences between generations can lead to rifts that feel impossible to cross. Each mother is her own kind of curse to her daughter, and each daughter a kind of curse to her mother. Whether a mother does not love enough or loves too much, it can never be right. But this book doesn't dwell in the day-to-day of this, instead it starts at Evelyn's death. Evelyn was a frustrated mother who felt trapped by her family, but Laura has responded by being a woman who makes her family the center of her life, including the care for her mother as she nears the end. We get hardly any interaction between this mother and daughter, this is not that book, but we get to jump through time to see each woman on her own, without her family, with her own set of dreams. Laura's relationship with Grace is also complex. Laura's family is her center, but it has also fractured. Her husband and her son are constantly at odds, only forced together because of her son's ongoing struggle with addiction. Grace cannot get far enough away from all of it and the way her mother does all the work for everyone, including her constant efforts to repair this relationship. But Grace soon finds herself forced to step into her mother's role, just as her mother and grandmother have found themselves obligated before her. Getting to know each of these women, understanding why they made the choices they did, and seeing just how similar they are but how little they understand each other or open up to each other is truly heartbreaking. But mostly I spent this book feeling a lot like Grace, feeling angry at the men who created most of these situations in the first place. I saw the men of so many novels, creating havoc and misery while they wallow in their own selfish struggle, but when you move outside of their heads to someone else's there is a kind of momentum and scale that builds a bigger, deeper, more rewarding book. I love a book that shows you multiple points of view, that lets you live with A who struggles with B, but then flips over to B to show you just how hard a time they have with A. But I particularly enjoyed how this book didn't just give you each woman in equal parts but broke out of my expectations for what would happen and how this story would be told. My largest quibble is that the end is a bit too rushed, which keeps it from feeling fully integrated with the rest of the story, though this may have been the author's intention.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    In her latest novel, Jean Thompson focuses on what she does best — creating authentic and complex characters that quietly make choices, some good and some bad, and evolve through those decisions. In exploring three generations of women, the question that arises is this: is it possible to break free from one’s family and cast off its legacy of unhappy women? For Grace, who literally renames herself from her given name of Patti (Grace is her middle name), living on one’s own terms is worth a try. H In her latest novel, Jean Thompson focuses on what she does best — creating authentic and complex characters that quietly make choices, some good and some bad, and evolve through those decisions. In exploring three generations of women, the question that arises is this: is it possible to break free from one’s family and cast off its legacy of unhappy women? For Grace, who literally renames herself from her given name of Patti (Grace is her middle name), living on one’s own terms is worth a try. Her grandmother, Evelyn, married a stodgy professor on the law school faculty during war time—not the most harmonious alignment. That marriage led to two children, including her only daughter, Laura, who subsequently falls into a misaligned marriage of her own and also begets two children, Grace and Michael. Grace is underemployed in a local health food store; her brother Michael, a wannabe musician and drug addict. As Grace struggles to keep her family afloat, will she end up losing herself? Will she, indeed, find the grace to fit into her family structure without being pulled into the destructive orbit of her oppressive family? In sharing the stories of these women —separately and together—A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl really shares the story of what it is like to be a woman, the things we yearn for, the things we cast ourselves against, the ways we undermine ourselves by our sense of duty to husbands, brothers, and society in general. These intricately-drawn portraits sparkle with truths and the despair that often goes hand-in-hand with being a dreamer. It is, at turns, poignant, tender, tragic, and real.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    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 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy Collins

    Buy the Audiobook! Cassandra Campbell was amazing, as always. More to come.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alena

    I have some crazy mixed feelings about this book. I went in knowing nothing except that I loved this author's previous novel The Year We Left Home and for the first 2/3 of the novel I felt the same way. I love the midwestern roots, the ambling nature of the storytelling, the push-pull of mother/daughter dynamics. I recognized these women, felt I understood their strengths and weaknesses. Then the bottom dropped out for me. It's not that I can't handle a tragic turn or some abrupt plot twists (in I have some crazy mixed feelings about this book. I went in knowing nothing except that I loved this author's previous novel The Year We Left Home and for the first 2/3 of the novel I felt the same way. I love the midwestern roots, the ambling nature of the storytelling, the push-pull of mother/daughter dynamics. I recognized these women, felt I understood their strengths and weaknesses. Then the bottom dropped out for me. It's not that I can't handle a tragic turn or some abrupt plot twists (in fact I often prefer those developments); it was more like I felt it suddenly turned into another book completely - maudlin, painfully self-aware and bizarrely repetitive. I struggled through the last 50 pages shaking my head. I will read Jean Thomson again, but on the whole, this novel left me unsatisfied.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Women hold a family together. They plan the social activities and family gatherings, act as a buffer between butting heads, ease the high emotions of family conflict, and provide the meals for the family table that brings generations together. It is not an easy job, or an easy life. Especially in families afflicted with personality disorders, addictions, mental illness, anger issues, conflict--or even with the usual garden variety issues common to all families. A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Je Women hold a family together. They plan the social activities and family gatherings, act as a buffer between butting heads, ease the high emotions of family conflict, and provide the meals for the family table that brings generations together. It is not an easy job, or an easy life. Especially in families afflicted with personality disorders, addictions, mental illness, anger issues, conflict--or even with the usual garden variety issues common to all families. A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson is about three generations of women who have struggled with holding the family together even when their personal dreams are sacrificed for their family. The characters, Evelyn, Laura, and Grace, are vital and distinct while recalling to mind our own mothers and daughters. It is a heartbreaking story that spans from WWII to the present, each generation of women hoping to find self-fulfillment and true love yet putting the interests of others first. Each woman who reads this novel must ask herself in what way has she repeated her mother's life, in what ways has she sacrificed her dreams, and if it was worth it in the end. And do we make these choices out of societal or familial expectation or out of the love we have for our children? I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mahala

    Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC. A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a story about three generations of women in the Wise family. I believe the point of this novel is to try to answer whether each generation of women is doomed to be exactly like their mother or if they can change their course. It seems this was meant to be poignant and moving and affect us all in some deep way but honestly, it was terrible and dull. This was a story about a woman trapped in a loveless marr Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC. A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a story about three generations of women in the Wise family. I believe the point of this novel is to try to answer whether each generation of women is doomed to be exactly like their mother or if they can change their course. It seems this was meant to be poignant and moving and affect us all in some deep way but honestly, it was terrible and dull. This was a story about a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who devoted her life to doing everything for everyone except herself, her daughter who is also trapped in a loveless marriage with an alcoholic, and HER daughter who is miserable because she ends up cleaning up their decades of messes. It would be depressing but it's too bland to even incite such feeling as sadness. I had really high hopes for this book and I feel like it COULD have been good. It had potential but it didn't play out.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I suppose anyone who is a daughter, or a mother, or has lost a mother, will be able to find something to relate to in this book. I know I did. It is true that women have always been the glue that holds a family together, sometimes joyfully, other times not so much. This is the story of 3 generations of unhappy, dissatisfied, women who did the best they could with the hand they were dealt, and lived as best they could with the choices they made. It was not exactly a tear jerker although it was de I suppose anyone who is a daughter, or a mother, or has lost a mother, will be able to find something to relate to in this book. I know I did. It is true that women have always been the glue that holds a family together, sometimes joyfully, other times not so much. This is the story of 3 generations of unhappy, dissatisfied, women who did the best they could with the hand they were dealt, and lived as best they could with the choices they made. It was not exactly a tear jerker although it was depressing at times. I wanted to remind each of these women that life is what you make of it. I wish someone had done that for them. I received an advance copy for review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    I can’t imagine a woman who WON’T find something with which to identify in the three main characters of Jean Thompson’s novel, “A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl”. There were parts of each of their stories that spoke to me directly, parts that mystified me completely, and all of it was compelling and beautifully rendered. I feel confident recommending this to all of my female reading friends, AND to any man who would like some insight into women’s lives, past and present. Evelyn, Laura, and Grace – I can’t imagine a woman who WON’T find something with which to identify in the three main characters of Jean Thompson’s novel, “A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl”. There were parts of each of their stories that spoke to me directly, parts that mystified me completely, and all of it was compelling and beautifully rendered. I feel confident recommending this to all of my female reading friends, AND to any man who would like some insight into women’s lives, past and present. Evelyn, Laura, and Grace – three generations of women who have lived their lives in a small college town. For the most part their lives are conventional for their eras, though secrets are contained in each story. Theirs are largely familiar quotidian stories of motherhood and family; births, deaths, raising children, marriage, and occasional catastrophes and tragedies. This is a character-driven novel, not a plot driven one, though there are some suspenseful moments toward the end. The “today” character, Grace, dominates most of the story, and Thompson does a brilliant job of showing how Grace’s life is both similar to her mother’s and grandmother’s, and also how vastly different it is in today’s culture. Two things occurred to me while reading this novel. The first was in noticing that both Laura and Grace have brothers only, I wondered how their stories would have been different had they had a sister (in addition to, or in place of, a brother). Sisters, especially when they are close, share both joys and burdens, and probably would have made these characters less isolated. The other thing I noted is that with the advent of DNA/genetic services such as “23 and Me” and others, it’s much less likely that paternity switcheroos will stay hidden, even for past generations. Solid 4.5 stars!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I enjoy broad sweeping family sagas that look at relationship patterns that repeat over generations. I believe that good fiction provides readers with windows into relationships of their own, or at least provides possible explanations for relationships that defy easy understanding. A CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL offers many vantage points and explanations for mothers and daughters who just miss one another in their attempts to connect. Author Jean Thompson has some deeply held views about parent I enjoy broad sweeping family sagas that look at relationship patterns that repeat over generations. I believe that good fiction provides readers with windows into relationships of their own, or at least provides possible explanations for relationships that defy easy understanding. A CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL offers many vantage points and explanations for mothers and daughters who just miss one another in their attempts to connect. Author Jean Thompson has some deeply held views about parents and children and the ways in which timing interferes with intention throughout the lifespan. This tale is vast in scope but surprisingly specific in content. While all families have some pain, few suffer to this extent. I found this book very compelling and could not put it down. I wasn’t sure what would happen next and was eager to find out. I wasn’t disappointed. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- 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 hu I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- 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 the 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. This is a very lyrical, slow reading book that your book club will love as it is full of relatable stories about the sacrifices that women make for their lives and families. That said, it is a very slow, slow, slow and even slower read: this is not a book one can devour in an afternoon or day in a comfy chair- am a very very very fast reader and this book kept tripping me as I WANTED STUFF TO HAPPEN!! If you are the type of person who likes to linger vs. devour a book, this would be for you as the years take what feels like years to happen on the page. My book club and my mom will love this book ... for them, I am ending up declaring this a 4 out of 5 stars as it is just way too slow for quick readers like myself to enjoy! (5/5 FOR BOOK CLUBS, 3/5 FOR ME = 4/5 STARS!)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Csoke

    Laura Wise Arnold now in her fifties with a husband and family of her own, is in charge of overseeeing her dying mothers home and affairs etc. A Charming Read!!!! Thankyou Goodreads for this free book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Peretic

    Jean Thompson’s latest novel, “Girl in the Shape of a Cloud”, is a multi-generational account of three women: Evelyn, Laura and Grace. In a small university town, the past seems inescapable. It greets you at birth and lingers long after you’ve gone. This is the reality Grace lives in, much like her mother Laura before her and her grandmother Evelyn before that; a world of prescribed expectations. Thompson links the women by more than blood in telling their stories and, for once, allowing them to Jean Thompson’s latest novel, “Girl in the Shape of a Cloud”, is a multi-generational account of three women: Evelyn, Laura and Grace. In a small university town, the past seems inescapable. It greets you at birth and lingers long after you’ve gone. This is the reality Grace lives in, much like her mother Laura before her and her grandmother Evelyn before that; a world of prescribed expectations. Thompson links the women by more than blood in telling their stories and, for once, allowing them to stand alone. Slipping effortlessly between perspectives and timelines, the stories we see may just be the stories of us all. The ones that never get told. “A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl” details the slow creep of life from bygone trysts of youth to the scarcity of sureness, the imposed duties, the dull contempt, and the frustrating mundanity that seems to wear everything down like water as it drips over stone. Opening at the close of Evelyn’s life, her daughter Laura grapples with the person her mother was and who she herself has become. Meanwhile, her daughter Grace struggles to intercept her own identity from that of her oppressive family: a martyr for a mother, an overworked alcoholic father, and a drug-addled and needy brother. Despite herself, when her mother is hit with a weighty diagnosis following Evelyn’s death, Grace finds herself inheriting all of the things that as a modern woman, she’d hoped to avoid. It is Grace who is left at the helm to try and keep their dysfunctional family afloat. In the process, she is plunged into the cold undercurrent that seems to run beneath all generations of women. Hers is the story of strength as a last resort; a story of strength by default. I read this book while my parents were in town visiting. I couldn’t help peering over the pages and seeing the time capsules that they had become, the ones that we all are. What unknown stories did they hold? Which ones would others never know about me? It was a welcome perspective and one that seemed to permeate every page of the book. The characters in “Girl in the Shape of a Cloud” resonated with such basic truths, it was almost a relief to read their accounts and think, “it’s not just me” or, “that sounds just like so and so…”. I laughed at their quips and marital scruples and recognized their silences and the banal ways in which they felt on the sidelines of their own lives. They were real and recognizable in ways that all characters should be, particularly the women around whom the story is built. In fact, I liked them so much that I wish I could have spent more time with them. When the primary perspective falls to Grace, it felt as if the story moved from this complicated lineage of women to the men in Grace’s life: her father, her brother, a faux-lover. I was disappointed to be cut off from the storyline of the original characters who I had come to like and feel deeply curious about. That shift left the novel feeling unfinished for me, but I suspect there was no way around that. I wanted to turn over every rock that Evelyn and Laura had touched. Perhaps it’s simply an unfortunate consequence of all well-liked characters. Still, it is a worthwhile read with strong and emotive themes. “Girl in the Shape of a Cloud” will have you looking at your life and the lives of those around you with new eyes.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Jean Thompson has definitely entered my very short "will read whatever this author writes" list. She has a way of so beautifully (and amusingly) depicting messy people. If you need your characters to be likeable, I wouldn't recommend this. But I found it brilliant.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda Hutchinson

    I am not sure my review will make sense, but I’ll do my best. The first of this book amazed me. The writing, the concept, the 3 fascinating women at the center of this story with synchronized sagas. Three generations of women, Grandmother Evelyn, Daughter Laurie, and finally Granddaughter Grace, with life journeys that overlap. All 3 never fulfilled, all 3 picking wrong men, all 3 slaves to their emotionally stagnant husbands or family. All 3 moving in the shadow of the expectations for the men I am not sure my review will make sense, but I’ll do my best. The first ¾ of this book amazed me. The writing, the concept, the 3 fascinating women at the center of this story with synchronized sagas. Three generations of women, Grandmother Evelyn, Daughter Laurie, and finally Granddaughter Grace, with life journeys that overlap. All 3 never fulfilled, all 3 picking wrong men, all 3 slaves to their emotionally stagnant husbands or family. All 3 moving in the shadow of the expectations for the men in their families. At one point, Grace reflects; “But I always thought I’d have some great…adventure, some totally unexpected, transforming thing happen, like in the movies.” All of these women felt the constrictions of societal expectations for those of the female gender. Within their families, boys were highly educated and prized while girls were expected to manage the household. As Evelyn approaches death, Laurie takes on the role of caregiver even though her mother was never kind or loving. The one role Grandmother Evelyn was groomed for was not the role she was willing to play in life. Laurie tries the opposite tact by overcompensating for her children yet still expecting little from her own daughter, Grace. When Laurie faces cancer, it is Daughter Grace who stays by her side and oversees her care. In short, through many generations, women are most often the emotional and physical caretakers. All three were suffocated by their gender. It was a well-crafted story until things turned toward soap opera pandemonium in the last ¼ of the book. I did not feel it was compelling or necessary and disappointed me. Knowing what I know now, I would still read this book because it is a powerful observation on gender and societal roles. As Grace cares for her mother, Laurie states, “But if you want to know who really loves you, look around and see who’s still standing next to you.” This is a valid observation and part of a well-written novel. #women #gender #roles #societalnorms #expectations #alcoholism #drugs #sons #daughters #husbands #unhappymarriage #misspentyouth #book #books #bookstagram #booknerd #lindaleereads2019 #literaryfiction #bookworm ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    The writing is so strong I was immediately on board. Jean Thompson captures the essence of everyday moments. For instance, here is a reality for many, succinctly expressed: ‘If you lived in a small-to-medium city, like this one, for some number of years, there were circles of people you knew, from different layers of your life, different strata, like an archaeological dig. Fallen-away friends from middle school, old rivals, old sweethearts. Your brother’s old friends, old rivals, sweethearts. Peo The writing is so strong I was immediately on board. Jean Thompson captures the essence of everyday moments. For instance, here is a reality for many, succinctly expressed: ‘If you lived in a small-to-medium city, like this one, for some number of years, there were circles of people you knew, from different layers of your life, different strata, like an archaeological dig. Fallen-away friends from middle school, old rivals, old sweethearts. Your brother’s old friends, old rivals, sweethearts. People you’d forgotten all about, until they appeared at your door, selling lawn care services or running for city council.’ There was a generational element, and the story fairly throbbed with a pattern of recurring disappointments as well as sparse glimmers of light. Her flawed characters were very believable, and they broke your heart. Here a protagonist reflects on a man who has just proposed marriage; ‘This would be her life with him, or some portion of it: the receiving of opinions. But you could not dismiss such a man, or even make fun of him. He was too uptight, too serious and substantial. When he said a thing, he meant it. If she married him she would always be herself, a pillar of certainty. She might rage against him and argue, but he would not be moved. And that would be exasperating but also a relief, to have someone so close at hand, who could be so reliably be contradicted, scorned, denied, and who would always be there to accept more.’ This author will remain a favorite. However, the subtle, though bleak reality of certain aspects cast a shadow. Just me, no doubt, and my faintheartedness, or my reluctance to face possible echoes in my own life. Despite the slight reservation, this can be no less than five stars. I loved the dedication: ‘In memory of my parents And of their parents And of all those gone before’.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Smith

    This is the first of Jean Thompson's novels I've read, and I am likely to search out others from her list because of the quality of this and its emotional impact, an impact which, in my case, has to do with relatability. The story of three generations of women, Evelyn, mother to Laura, mother to Grace, each of them resisting the roles society and family determine for them, struggling to let go of those bonds of expectations and live their own lives, find purchase in a reality of their own design This is the first of Jean Thompson's novels I've read, and I am likely to search out others from her list because of the quality of this and its emotional impact, an impact which, in my case, has to do with relatability. The story of three generations of women, Evelyn, mother to Laura, mother to Grace, each of them resisting the roles society and family determine for them, struggling to let go of those bonds of expectations and live their own lives, find purchase in a reality of their own design and choosing. Both Laura and Grace are consigned, eventually, to caring for their dying mothers, prior to which, all three to various degrees are forced into position as peacemakers, as hiders of truths, the ones in charge of picking up the pieces and making up for the inadequacies and surrenders of others --- they are the ones left with what must be done that others won't do. They take care of, they see to, they step up. Anyone who has ever had a family, an aging parent, family members between whom you had to referee or placate, who's left with the dishes, the cleaning up after others have pretended to do so, the one handling the crises --- you will find yourself here. And anyone who's ever had a family will recognize themselves and find a piece of their heart somewhere, at some point (or many points) in this beautifully written and incisively, intricately told story. Because no matter how you try, well, Ms. Thompson says it better: “You could announce yourself emancipated from your family and its wars and scars, but you weren’t, not really.” I'd have given this another star save for what I found to be an ending which veered to the melodramatic; and which was totally unnecessary, for me anyway, since, up until then the novel had been a family history grounded in reality, the every day sort of "yes, I've lived that" thing. But, that's not going to top me from searching out Jean Thompson's backlist.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    This is the kind of book that you enjoy 85% of the way and then it goes dark and even darker before it ends, leaving you thinking, what was the point of all that? It tracks three generations of women and keeps you interested in each story but the theme of the entire telling is that women always get stuck with the lion's share of domestic drudgery, caring for dying relatives, marital dissatisfaction and domestic dysfunction....Hey, who wants pie?! The youngest of the three generations (Grace) wat This is the kind of book that you enjoy 85% of the way and then it goes dark and even darker before it ends, leaving you thinking, what was the point of all that? It tracks three generations of women and keeps you interested in each story but the theme of the entire telling is that women always get stuck with the lion's share of domestic drudgery, caring for dying relatives, marital dissatisfaction and domestic dysfunction....Hey, who wants pie?! The youngest of the three generations (Grace) watches her mother live a life of drudgery, not focusing on her own happiness and instead making futile attempts to make the rest of the family happy. Grace resists and insists HER life will be different. Spoiler alert: It isn't. "Michael and his father were pitching in more around the house but in practice it meant sour heaps of laundry left in corners, frozen meals and dust balls rolling across the floors. Grace cleaned up after them with black-hearted efficiency. It was true, the women always got stuck with such things. And here she had been determined not to be that kind of women." I didn't hate reading it, but the cliffs notes synopsis is: Family life sucks and eventually you die.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

    Following three generations of women in a Midwestern college town, this novel explores the sacrifices made for family and how those choices reflect in future generations. It also examines the relationship between mothers and daughters and how sometimes a daughter make decisions just to counteract the decisions that their mother made before her. This is a quiet novel and does a good job of demonstrating how the role of women in a family is defined and how sometimes a woman will have to take on th Following three generations of women in a Midwestern college town, this novel explores the sacrifices made for family and how those choices reflect in future generations. It also examines the relationship between mothers and daughters and how sometimes a daughter make decisions just to counteract the decisions that their mother made before her. This is a quiet novel and does a good job of demonstrating how the role of women in a family is defined and how sometimes a woman will have to take on the same roll regardless of what generation she fall into. The only fault that I find with the book is the unexamined drama at the end and the rather unnuanced personalities of the men. As a mother, daughter and townie of a Midwestern college town, I found much to relate to in this beautifully written book. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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