“The Secret of Clouds” by Alyson Richman— Living with a Full Heart

Richman, Alyson. “The Secret of Clouds”, Berkeley, 2019.

Living with a Full Heart

Amos Lassen

 Katya is a rising ballerina who is in love with and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy occurs in Kiev, the city where they live and that they love. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two connect soulfully, Yuri’s curiosity and wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life.  She’ll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her  until she needs that strength the most.

Yuri has spent most of his life indoors due to a heart condition. He and Maggie, his tutor, develop a relationship that affects both of them in a positive way. We have two parallel story lines. Maggie is trying to find her way personally and professionally while tutoring Yuri and Yuri’s parents, and their move to the US from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The book is written from the point of view of Maggie who with her boyfriend Bill has just moved to Long Island to get away from some of the stress of living in the city. We see that her relationship with Bill is not as good as it should be and seems to be heading toward an end. ve light.
The second storyline  begins with Sasha convincing Katya to move to the US. We get some insight to what their life was like before they had Yuri. Katya believes that Yuri was born with the birth defect because of the nuclear fallout from Chechnya and blames herself.

Maggie Topper teaches 5th grade language arts. She left a high paying job to pursue her passion. She is devoted to her students and finds creative ways to reach them. Maggie’s principal asks her to tutor a boy who is too ill to attend school. It does not take long for us to fall in love with Yuri and his parents.

Maggie is able to get to Yuri through his love of baseball and she realizes that what Yuri really needs is a friend his own age to talk to. Because of Maggie’s love for Yuri and his family, she is able to bring joy into their home.
However, I do feel that something is missing during  the parts of the story with Maggie when Yuri is not around. I actually found myself caring more about Yuri than Maggie.

 The Secret of Clouds is a love letter to teachers and to the students whose lives they touch and having taught for most of my adult, I saw this as a tribute. This is quite an emotional read so prepare yourselves for that. These emotions are causing me not to say much about the plot because I do not want to spoil the read for anyone.  I will tell you that the story is told through flashbacks and deals with the topic of immigration, something that we need to speak more about especially as immigrants are treated by today’s presidential; administration.

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