A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

“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.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501194368 | 
  • October 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jean Thompson. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

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, their oldest, has moved out from Laura and Gabe’s house, but can’t seem to live up to her potential—whatever that might be. Three women face trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks, marital disappointments and infidelities, familial dysfunction, mortality.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Lilacs play a pivotal emotional role for each of the three main characters. In Victorian times, lilacs were given as a reminder of first love, and were often worn by widows. Their name derives from the Greek word for “flute,” a reference to the legendary origin of pan flutes. Why do you think author Jean Thompson chose lilacs as the flower of resonance for E see more

More Books from this Author

The Year We Left Home
Do Not Deny Me
Throw Like A Girl
City Boy

About the Author

Jean Thompson
Marion Ettlinger

Jean Thompson

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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