Thunderclouds in the Forecast: A Novel Cover Image
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Thunderclouds in the Forecast traverses the linked histories of two friends—one Black, the other white—who grew up wards of the state in New York. It’s April 1976 and Ray is taking Amtrak to San Francisco to reconnect with Scotty, his oldest friend, whom he met in a shelter for abandoned children. While Ray has embraced the stable tedium of steady employment, Scotty’s life has been erratic, a trail of short-lived affairs and dead-end jobs. Maybe Ray, who’s just won the lottery, is finally in a position to help him.

When Ray’s train is delayed in Lorena, a Gold Rush outpost turned college town, he meets Alice. Together they embark on a romance that tempts him to stay. By the time Ray arrives in San Francisco, Scotty has abandoned his bartending job, his rented room, and his scant belongings and skipped town with a married woman from Lorena. Now Ray has more than one reason to return.

A preeminent American writer who thrives on reinvention, Major returns with an unforgettable exploration of life on the brink of sweeping change. With spare prose and subtle poignancy, Thunderclouds in the Forecast probes love, loyalty, and belonging. As Toni Morrison wrote, “Clarence Major has a remarkable mind and the talent to match.”

About the Author

CLARENCE MAJOR is a novelist, poet, and painter. His novels include Dirty Bird Blues; Such Was the Season, a Literary Guild selection; My Amputations, winner of the Western States Book Award; Painted Turtle: Woman with Guitar, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year; and One Flesh. He has contributed to the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Harvard Review, among dozens of other periodicals. He is the author of fifteen collections of poetry. A Fulbright Scholar, Major has won a National Book Award bronze medal, a National Council on the Arts Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and a PEN Oakland/Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in literature. He was elected to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2021. Major is a distinguished professor emeritus of twentieth-century American literature at the University of California, Davis.

Praise For…

“. . . leaves the reader thinking about the book long after it’s closed.” —Crystal Wilkinson, author of The Birds of Opulence

“In his latest novel, Thunderclouds in the Forecast, Clarence Major offers readers a glimpse into the life of Raymond Jansen. It’s enchanting, even a bit mysterious, to read a story that slaps of fated moments at every turn when the protagonist himself is an abider of coincidence. Ray is a slow burn of a character, which kept me turning the page, and seeing life through Ray’s lens is the truest pleasure of the novel. Major expertly writes a protagonist whose untidy backstory, Blackness, and good luck serves as fertile ground for challenging questions of fortune, family, faith, and fate.” —Brenna Womer, author of honeypot

“Clarence Major’s Thunderclouds in the Forecast plumbs fate as this masterful storyteller delivers the parallel lives of Ray and Scotty, one Black and the other white, growing up from infants to men in the hardship of New York City shelters. But when Scotty moves to San Francisco and later beckons Ray there, time and pain make one of the two realize luck and chance can also shape life and death.” —Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021

“Ultimately, Ray's rags-to-riches experiences evocatively illuminate the dichotomy of race and class in 1970s America.” —Aryssa Damron, Booklist

“What comes of two abandoned boys, one Black and one white, who fall into fast friendship while wards of the state of New York? That's the elusive truth one of them, lottery-winner Ray, needs to know. And that's what readers of Thunderclouds in the Forecast learn bit by bit in carefully wrought, well-observed prose—until realities both startling and seemingly inevitable overwhelm Ray in this poignant, Steinbeckian, timeless novel about the restlessness of the human heart." —Mark Wisniewski, founding editor of Coolest American Stories Anthology

“A poet and visual artist as well as a fiction writer, Clarence Major has written a moving story of an African American man seeking a place for himself in the contested racial landscape of 1970s California. Ray Jansen, an African American man in his late twenties, comes to San Francisco to seek out Scotty, the white boy he grew up with in shelters and foster homes in New York. While searching for the troubled companion of his youth, Ray encounters love, possessiveness, jealousy, microagressions, and overt racial animus as he tries to settle in the town of Lorena, north of the Bay Area. Read Thunderclouds in the Forecast—a beautiful telling of one of our oldest and truest stories, a wanderer’s search for the solace of home.” —Lawrence Coates, author of Camp Olvido

“What role does luck play in our lives? Clarence Major’s Thunderclouds in the Forecast offers a moving and troubling answer as it explores the lives of two men—one Black, one white, both abandoned orphans from birth, both survivors of the New York state foster care system. When Ray, a modern-day Gatsby, pursues his friend Scott to California, their lives take unexpected turns, resulting in both hope and tragedy. A thought-provoking study of fate and its consequences by an award-winning author and poet.” —Minrose Gwin, author of The Accidentals: A Novel

“Clarence Major is an important writer, and this novel, at turns poignant and painful, tells the story of two men, abandoned as babies, who are drawn together as adults by the mysterious bonds of old friends who might have been brothers. With indelible characters, an intriguing California setting, and the inevitable pain of relationships, this novel, strong and true, is a beautifully written story.” —Philip Lee Williams, author of Far Beyond the Gates: A Novel 

“This novel comforts as it warns, indicts what it forgives. Best of all is the respect Major pays to the infinitesimal, the way the smallest details of our everyday lives—an utterance, a walk, the mere selection of a meal, the laying down of a dollar—spin themselves and each other into losses and gains, friendships and tragedies.” —Abby Frucht, author of Licorice

"I love this inventive, quirky, unpredictable, highly original jewel of a novel, filled with storytelling treasure." —Sarah Schulman, author of The Cosmopolitans

“How does someone reclaim not only the loss of one's past, but also the loss of the self? In Thunderclouds in the Forecast, Clarence Major, one of our preeminent writers, brings us the story of Ray Jansen, a product of the broken foster care system, whose journey to find the one true friend of his youth—a white man—leads Ray through the town of Lorena, where he and new love Alice trace each other's pasts, hurts, loves and hopes. This minimalist story of friendship, racial discrimination, and the need for human connection brims and burns with yearning that remained with me long after the final page. Clarence Major is a treasure.” —Laurie Foos, author of Ex Utero 

“What makes a family? Is it those we are born to or those we choose? In Clarence Major's powerful and poignant novel, two men—abandoned at birth, raised together in shelters and foster care, one Black, one white—forge a unique bond. This is a story of brothers, as old as Cain and Abel, as modern as the world we live in today. And as heartbreaking as the violence and racism that encompasses us all. Part thriller, part family saga, it is a story that will resonate with me for a long time to come.” —Mary Morris, author of Gateway to the Moon: A Novel 

Thunderclouds in the Forecast draws you in; the reader can't put the novel down; she wants to know what will happen to Ray. In the process she finds out so much more about how life dips and turns, sways and changes course. Thunderclouds? They arrive suddenly and leave just as quickly. When they're gone everything is changed, cleansed.” —Laura Marello, author of Matisse: The Only Blue

Product Details
ISBN: 9780810144262
ISBN-10: 0810144263
Publisher: TriQuarterly
Publication Date: October 15th, 2021
Pages: 200
Language: English