A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl Summary and Reviews

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

by Jean Thompson

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson X
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Thompson's novel is filled with real, complex characters whose destinies are inextricably tied to the women in their lives." - Publishers Weekly

"With low-key yet piercing humor, caustic observations balanced with compassion, and entrancing storytelling mojo, Thompson masterfully uncovers the contrary emotions surging beneath the flat, orderly landscapes and tidy homes of the Midwest…Like those of Jane Hamilton and Antonya Nelson, Thompson's embracing domestic novel invites reflection and discussion." - Booklist

"Thompson, who wrote movingly about another Midwestern family in The Year We left Home (2011), here creates a plot and characters that feel more diagrammed than lived." - Kirkus

"A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a story that illustrates our present moment through a keen and unflinching look at our past. Thompson's work centers on the Midwest, what some call 'fly over' country, but in her hands, we come to see that it is the center." - Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling author of An American Marriage

"Gorgeously written and perfectly composed, this book is a powerful look at the unbidden forces that shape our lives and the unexpected places where love erupts and flourishes." - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

This information about A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Sandi W.

bleak and sorrowful
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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Jean Thompson Author Biography

Photo: Marion Ettlinger

Jean Thompson is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including the National Book Award finalist Who Do You Love, the NYT bestseller The Year We Left Home, and the NYT Notable Book Wide Blue Yonder. Her work has been published in the New Yorker, as well as dozens of other magazines, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She has been the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, among other accolades, and has taught creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, Northwestern University, and many other colleges and universities.

Link to Jean Thompson's Website

Other books by Jean Thompson at BookBrowse
  • The Poet's House jacket

6 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...
  • Book Jacket: Foster
    Foster
    by Claire Keegan
    Irish author Claire Keegan is experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks to the selection of her ...
  • Book Jacket
    Dr. No
    by Percival Everett
    Percival Everett's novel Dr. No follows Wala Kitu, a professor of mathematics at Brown University ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.