Appearances are everything and the way others perceive you vital as Tony who is in marketing, smart and good looking in his own way, never sees the real him. Looking in the mirror he takes himself apart and reflects on the images of others. Comparing himself to other guys like himself who are gay, he ponders about his weight, his clothes, job and whether he meets up to their standards of how he should look yet always looking for ways to score points with other men. The shock of going out with his boyfriend Ken, hearing him say the words that no one wants to hear, I care for you only as a friend, leaving the restaurant without turning back, Tony faces a hurt that would take him apart in many ways.
Tony is genuinely concerned about this weight and binge eating and then giving it all up is his one way of keeping his weight down, but he takes pills for depression, anxiety, fat burners , laxatives and more and at times his stomach explodes, his body reacts and yet he continues. Nick and Lisa are his best friends, and he works at a marketing firm and teaches writing at night to students that really enjoy his way of presenting the classes. But things change when he meets Antonio a younger guy teaching art at the same center where he teaches writing and a relationship form of a different sort, but Tony needs help and Dr. Tee are part of the solution.
Walking through the underground of the financial district he notices other gay men and does his own assessment of them using a scale in his mind and hoping to live up to his own standards but never does. Then Dr. Tee realizes that Tony’s problem needs more than just him after his ditches the session to be with Antonio and then it’s suggested he attends classes or sessions for anyone with an eating disorder. It is called the Light House and when you read the chapters you the reader if you have the same issues will benefit from what the coach or instructor asks them to do. People with body image often distress and tend to judge their self-worth based on their shape, weight, and their ability to control them. Other interests take a back seat but over time those take on even lesser importance. Self-evaluation can develop through specific life experiences or through the influence of family, friends and media, or it just might be part of Ton’s personality. Over time you hope he will put less and less importance on this more on other measures of worth.
The author allows readers to understand the many shades and aspects of Tony and his relationship with his friends and Antonio. Is he truly attracted to him or is he just flattered because of his attention and the fact that he is so much younger. His eating disorder gets in his way, it affected his job when a special project, report and meeting was due, and he did not complete it. Melo the company where he works has been cutting and pasting positions to limit its financial struggles and not spending as much and lowering the number of staff. This mistake might cost him, but his assistant needed his help, and he saved the day. He just does not realize that he is an amazing person, his students are great and when Antonio asks him to assess John’s art piece, his reflections and comments are on point. Cloud Cover is the title of the piece, and his description is perfect.
The next session or session 3 of the Light House brings to light how each person attending will create their own special chart, lists and more of how they will choose three things that they will change about themselves and how they attempt to do it. You need to read this chapter and realize that people look in the mirror so many times a day, weighing themselves countless times not wanting to gain an ounce, choosing ten outfits to wear before selecting the one that works for that day. Everything is about appearances, weight and opinions of others. Does it matter what people really think? What about Tony’s past and his mother? What about the lives of those that he encounters each day?
Mental health and illness are at the heart of this novel as we get to understand Tony, his addiction to weight issues and learning and hearing his inner most thoughts. The title encompasses many meanings as the student says he just created the piece from the clouds he saw outside when the sun was not there. However, Tony’s interpretation was quite remarkable as cloud covering can create sadness, depression and hides the light of the day or the sun as they pass by from light to dark covering the blue and beauty of the sky. Told in Tony’s voice and expressing his struggles with eating disorders, still grieving about his mother’s death and hoping to become a write to pay for his own home, mortgage and more. He lives life with a cloud cover over his entire body, mind and soul waiting to understand his issues with self-image, especially self-worth, self-esteem and acceptance not only from others but from himself too.
Isolation plays a role even though his friends care for him and worry about his way of life. There are so many readers that can learn so much from reading this story and embracing it as their own because Tony and you are not alone. Will he take ownership of his issues, will he change his perceptions about himself? Mental health is hard, and he challenges himself in diverse ways every day. Will he start to eat three meals a day? Will he still give it all back? What will the author do to bring it all together? Is this a successful conclusion or just a beginning of a positive change?
With Antonio in his life would Tony accept differences, friendship and love? But, within himself he could not reconcile this eating disorders and even though he went to the sessions with Dr. Tee and then winds up in the hospital, he enters St. Paul where you must eat and April who left the session abruptly works with him to rise above his fears but can he? Within the program the reader gets to understand his issues and that of others who are anorexic, bulimic, and more. Meeting so many at this hospital and then when Antonio recreated the garden his mother created with Roses, he falls apart and then destroys it all. Why? It’s as if he must rid himself of her control even though she is gone, and he relives her illnesses and deaths many times over.
When the reality that Antonio is gone and moved to another sets in Tony must decide where he belongs. With Lisa living with him, Antonio out of his life and his jobs up in the air where will life take him once he returns home? Some endings are powerful such as this one and some leave you wondering if there is much more author Jeffery Sotto has in store for Tony. Will he realize and keep the weight he gained? Will he learn to eat in proper amounts? What about binge eating? Where will life take him next? A powerful novel dealing with mental illness, eating disorders and acceptance of who you are as a person and not your outer appearance. When the sun is down, your world does not seem bright, and you watch the clouds float by. Think about the beauty of the clouds as they make their way through the sky. Cloud Cover: Can darken your spirits, take away your happiness as Tony finds himself but is he ready to embrace the sun?
Fran Lewis Just reviews
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