The Secret of Clouds – by Alyson Richman – independent book review – Fiction

The latest powerful story about the difference ONE teacher can make. From one of my favorite authors. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Alyson Richman always delivers an emotion-filled plot that explores the variety of strong ties that bind humans to one another. How do those bonds form? And what can threaten to tear them apart?

Here is the set-up:

Maggie is a twenties-something middle school English teacher who loves her job. There’s nothing that turns her on more than igniting that spark of knowledge in a reluctant child. She’s also just rented the home of her dreams and moved in with her long-standing boyfriend, as an expected prelude to marriage.

Nearby, Sasha and Katya are Ukrainian immigrants whose lives revolve around their 11 year old son, Yuri, who was born with a serious heart defect. Yuri turns out to be a bright, sensitive, and curious child with a wisdom well beyond his years. You will LOVE him!

Knowing and respecting her passion for teaching, the school principal asks Maggie to take on some home tutoring responsibilities with Yuri, so he can keep up with his grade level until he is well enough to return to a transitional classroom. And while Maggie approaches the assignment with some hesitancy, the relationship she forms with Yuri soon becomes central to her life.

There are some other wonderful characters, every one of which is fully three-dimensional and adds to the richness of the plot. (Richman simply doesn’t bring in superfluous characters. Even minor ones add depth to your understanding of people.) Maggie’s art teacher-friend, Susie, is a quirky, but steadfast sounding board. The new music teacher seems to have an innate empathy for Yuri’s isolation. Maggie’s Italian-Irish parents are supportive and helpful, often simply by supplying food. And one of Maggie’s other students, Finn, despite his youth, demonstrates the meaning of true friendship.

I won’t offer more about the plot, for fear of spoiling your reading experience. You will learn about Sasha and Katya’s backstory and how the presence of a chronically ill child can impact a loving marriage. You will see how Maggie’s growing attachment to Yuri causes her to question some of her other relationships and encourages her to push Yuri’s parents beyond their comfort zones. And I promise you will cry at least once before the book is over.

Alyson Richman

I did find what I felt were a few flaws in the novel. There’s a significant jump in time near the end that seemed a bit abrupt, though it gave Richman the opportunity to tie up some loose ends. And explain the title of the book. But overall, don’t miss this one.

More about the author, Alyson Richman.

You may be interested in my reviews of other novels by Richman: