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 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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About the author

Jean Thompson is a novelist and short story writer. Her works include the novels A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, She Poured Out Her Heart, The Humanity Project, The Year We Left Home, City Boy, Wide Blue Yonder, The Woman Driver, and My Wisdom and the short story collections The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told, Do Not Deny Me, Throw Like a Girl, Who Do You Love (a National Book Award finalist), Little Face and Other Stories, and The Gasoline Wars. Thompson’s short fiction has been published in many magazines and journals, including the New Yorker, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Thompson 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 at Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, Northwestern University, and other colleges and universities. She lives in Urbana, Illinois.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 23, 2018
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781501194382
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Small Town & Rural
Fiction / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A luminous debut novel about two young couples whose lives become intertwined when the husbands are appointed co-ministers of a venerable New York City church in the 1960s, spanning decades—for readers of Ann Patchett and Nicole Krauss.

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Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily--fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern—after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?

James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James's escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.

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Consumed by her pursuit of a Theory of Everything, a brilliant California scientist struggles to deal with life in and outside the lab

Doctor Esme Charbonneau Tallich’s passion is cosmology, the science of the origin of the universe; specifically, she is searching for a TOE, or a Theory of Everything. Esme is a feminist maverick, a rogue thinker. Hired as a professor of molecular biology at the University of Greater California, she prefers the “bench science” of organic chemistry at one extreme and “walking out into space” at the other. Her marriage to a TV director and aspiring stand-up comedian is rocky. Esme’s five-year-old daughter, Ollie, the sun in her galaxy, seems an enigma. Too readily diagnosed by professionals as “challenged,” even possibly autistic, she is, like Esme, a renegade thinker and creative mind. Her use of language is poetic, not deficit driven or conventional.

As her marriage dissolves, Esme’s struggle to maintain custody of Ollie and autonomy for herself and her work is set against the backdrop of the beckoning cosmos. Her tantalizing closeness to discovery of a grand unified theory—as psychiatric professionals, lawyers, and Esme’s estranged husband also close in on Ollie, seeking to medicate and restructure her—heightens tension while also offering hope. The discovery that Esme seeks is twofold: enlightenment and equilibrium in the troubled universes of her personal and professional lives. Saving St. Germ is a provocative, dramatic look at a single mother’s life at the edge of the universe—and the center of the human heart.
When Jean Thompson—“America’s Alice Munro” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)—is telling stories, “You cannot put the book down” (The Seattle Times), and her superlative new collection, Do Not Deny Me, is one to be savored, word by word.

• Award-winning storyteller gaining popularity: Jean Thompson’s short fiction has been honored by the National endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation; Who Do You Love: Stories was a National Book Award finalist for fiction and was promoted by David Sedaris during his own lecture tour; and Throw Like a Girl: Stories was a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. The collection is also in its sixth printing, as Thompson’s longstanding critical acclaim crosses over into a popular following. Do Not Deny Me is perfectly positioned to gain an even wider audience.

• Do Not Deny Me: Here is a title that demands—and commands—attention in and of itself. Yet Thompson’s latest collection is no literary dare, delivering as it does twelve dazzling new stories that together offer, with wit, humor, and razor-sharp perception, a fictional primer on how Americans live day to day. In Thompson’s writing, The New York Times Book Review has noted, “some of the biggest satisfactions happen line by line, thanks to Thompson’s effortless ability to tip her prose into the universal.” Thompson succeeds as “one of our most astute diagnosticians of contemporary experience” (The Boston Globe).
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