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Wide Blue Yonder

Wide Blue Yonder

A Novel

  • reading group guide
A National Book Award finalist for her story collection Who Do You Love, Jean Thompson towers into the stratosphere with her new novel, Wide Blue Yonder.

It is the summer of 1999, and something big and bad is coming to Springfield, Illinois, "the place the Weather lived." Wide Blue Yonder is a novel about weather in all its permutations -- climatic, emotional, even metaphysical. Our guides through this summer of blazing heat and fearsome storms compose an unlikely quartet, each preparing in some measure for the end of the world.

Uncle Harvey believes he is the Weather Channel's "Local Forecast." Yet even an arsenal of meteorological facts and figures can't stanch his existential fears. Harvey's niece, Josie, is fixed with a different predicament. She's seventeen, with nowhere to get to in the Land of Lincoln except into deep trouble. Josie's mother, Elaine, feigns cheerful efficiency, desperately masking a far more urgent quest. And then there's the loner Rolando, who hails from Los Angeles. A human storm system fueled by boundless rage, Rolando is on course to make Springfield the ground zero of his wrath.

Newsweek memorably described Thompson's previous collection, Who Do You Love, as "a beautiful book, but a hell of a sad one." Wide Blue Yonder burns brighter, yet moves in the same mysterious ways.
Choose a format:
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439129982 | 
  • June 2010
List Price $18.99

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: There Is Always Weather

Beige Woman was saying Strong Storms. She brushed her hand over the map and drew bands of color in her wake. All of Illinois was angry red. A cold front currently draped across Oklahoma, a raggedy spiderweb thing, was going to scuttle eastward and slam up against your basic Warm Moist Air From the Gulf. The whole witch's brew had been bubbling up for the last few days and now it was right on the doorstep. Beige Woman dropped her voice half an octave to indicate the serious nature of the situation, and Local Forecast nodded to show he understood.

Then he got up to see if the coffee was ready. It... see more


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Reading Group Guide

A Simon & Schuster
Reading Group Guide
Wide Blue Yonder
Like all my books, Wide Blue Yonder began with something small -- the idea of a man watching the Weather Channel -- and grew to fill a space. Early on I knew who Uncle Harvey would be: innocent, damaged, isolated. Once I found a language for the dialogue of his inner life, many of the specifics about him seemed to follow naturally. Of course he would live in a run-down house with a spoiled cat, of course he would grow a haphazard garden, eat ice cream straight out of the carton, and so on. When I tried to imagine who else might be involved with such an unsocial character, I naturally thought of family, and then invented a health crisis that would cause the family to intervene. Josie and her mother, Elaine, and all the secondary characters that branch off from them, derive from that basic plot necessity. Rolando Gottschalk, of course, is the wild card, a force of will, personality, and nature, that disrupts the expected course of events and, I hope, expands the book's scope.
The wonderful thing about the Weather Channel, for Harvey and I suppose anyone else who watches it, is that you can sit alone in your own living room and feel like a participant in matters of global import. I wanted to make that connection between individual lives, even seemingly insignificant lives, and the metaphysical. Harvey constructs his own version of the afterlife, while Elaine ponders the requirements for hap see more

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About the Author

Jean Thompson
Marion Ettlinger

Jean Thompson

Jean Thompson is the author of Who Do You Love: Stories, a 1999 National Book Award finalist for fiction, and the novels City Boy and Wide Blue Yonder, a New York Times Notable Book and Chicago Tribune Best Fiction selection. She lives in Urbana, Illinois. Visit her at




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