“Book Review: Cloud Cover”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
An honest look at the struggles of mental health and living with the hand you are dealt
Whether you’re struggling with mental health or know someone who is, Cloud Cover is a story that will feel familiar in its honest portrayal. In Jeffrey Sotto’s first novel, he documents the life of a man battling grief after his mother’s death and fretting regularly about how he will be perceived in public. With graphic descriptions and a glimmer of hope, Cloud Cover unveils the inner thoughts that accompany people dealing with grief, eating disorders, and the circumstances that got them there.
When one of Tony’s writing class students says their favorite movie is Legally Blonde, he rushes to defend her decision. And good thing he did, because not long after that, he is blindsided by a restaurant breakup just like Elle Woods; his Ken-doll boyfriend of two years reasons that he only loves him as a friend. These scenes start this crushing story that takes place years after the breakup.
As a short, gay Filipino man, Tony must go back into the world as a single 34-year-old attempting to figure out how he can be taken seriously in society and in the gay community. As he battles an eating disorder and his own mental health, he must discover what it takes to make it in his own world.
“‘I was just outside waiting for the sun to come out so I could paint a bright sky. But it never came. So I just went with what was there.’”
One of my favorite aspects of this novel is that Sotto is not afraid to talk about the specifics that go into living with an eating disorder. His main character Tony is described as someone whose ribs can be seen through his shirt, who is vomiting in public restrooms, and who is fainting uncontrollably. At his best, he is visibly unwell, but with a new love interest joining the mix, Tony begins to pursue the possibility of getting help.
But Tony’s attraction to self-destruction often overtakes the positive aspects in his life and casts a dark cloud over every possibility. His improvement seems largely based on who he is seeing at the time and how well it is going, and while it feels like a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be in his depressive state, Tony’s outlook does make it a bit harder to root for him as a character.
Other characters are often driven away by his pessimism, ultimately hurting him in the long run. But still, I wholeheartedly believe this character and his outlook. And though I wished for more growth from him, I can respect how this book takes us truthfully through a part of his journey. It’s honest and true, and I do hope he can improve by the end.
Dealing with mental health issues and coming of age, Cloud Cover offers an easy read with topics many can relate to. You’ll be flying through this book and finishing it while feeling inspired to keep on trying.
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