The Secret of Clouds: A Novel. Alyson Richman. Penguin Publishing Group. February 2019. $16.99; pb, 384 pp.; ISBN: 9780451490773.
Katya is an aspiring ballerina and Sasha a student scientist when they first meet. They marry after living a tumultuous life in Kiev and emigrate to the United States. Sasha suffered a major injury which curtailed her ballet career, but the birth of Yuri transformed their lives in so many ways. Years before their meeting, there was a nuclear disaster at Chernobyl which authorities claimed was no big deal. However, it turned out that the winds carried that radiation throughout all of Europe. Many Russians enjoyed the outdoor air at that time which was abnormally warm for mid-April. Katya was one of them and years later was distraught that that air she had absorbed was responsible for Yuri’s birth defect, a leaky tricuspid valve and abnormally-sized heart. Yuri was both a timid and sickly child for years and had to be monitored constantly. Katya incessantly worried over Yuri but Sasha had a more scientific and positive viewpoint about his son’s health issues.
This then is the story of Maggie, a young teacher who is very connected to her students and loves to be creative about language arts writing. She agrees to tutor Yuri at his home since he is too ill to come to school. At first the chemistry is zero but gradually sharing his passion for baseball becomes the centerfold of their growing relationship. The creation of a journal/storybook provides pages and pages of Yuri’s expression of what is important to him. No spoilers here but suffice to say that Yuri’s reflections on Maggie’s assignments become the highlight of his life, with no room left for false games or lies.
Yuri’s openness and honesty changes Maggie’s personal life as well as she finally chooses to move from one stagnant relationship to a life-giving and creative connection. Yuri then finds a peer who also loves baseball and becomes a best friend. Katya and Sasha also learn to relax and cherish their son’s growth and happiness.
The finale to this heartwarming story is tender, heart-wrenching and full of life-giving hope. This is a novel with innumerably endearing scenes that will remain in your thoughts and heart forever!