by Tia Kelley & Nia Foster from Two Writers, Two Takes, One Bookat a Time.
When Clouds Touch is the story of soul mates, Paisley and Malachi. Destined to meet since before birth, their story wraps us somewhere between loving and caring, wanting the best for someone, while wanting to see them happy, even when it is risky and they must obey the demands of family. Paisley, a woman of Japanese descent, living with Albinism and heart disease, is meek, yet makes no apologies for seeking what she yearns to have. Hiding behind the protective fold of her wagasa, she longs for freedom from her overprotective parents and the love of a man she’s known only in her dreams, even at the cost of her health. Malachi, a man who has visions of meeting an elusive shadow, uses his sense of humor and sensitive side to build their relationship. He’s determined to win her love, even against the wishes of her parents.
The premise, of soul-mates flitting about the outskirts of each other’s lives until the time of their predestined meeting, is novel but not unprecedented. What made it intriguing was the complete ‘otherness’ of the main characters. Paisley is a young woman grappling with what it means to be on her own for the first time in her life, struggling with overbearing parents and a desire to become her own person. So far not particularly remarkable, right? But Paisley is Japanese-American and her parents are very traditional, very protective. And added to that, Paisley has albinism which renders her legally blind. She also has congenital heart disease, a condition which–her parents often remind her–once killed her as a baby before she was revived. Paisley’s “condition” is the tether that binds her to her parents in a way that she has always felt was stifling. But the path of least resistance for her has always been to … not resist. Except now, attending school and living on her own, she is finally on the cusp of independence, as long as she can convince her parents that she is being attentive to her health. Enter Malachi. He is a handsome East Asian man whom Paisley has known literally all her life, earthly and before. Though they have never actually met, nor spoken to each other, Paisley and Malachi’s souls were bound before their birth and they have been ever-present in each other’s lives from the time they were infants; always on the cusp, but never quite meeting. When finally they do meet, in a minor mishap as she enters the building where he works, Paisley and Malachi quickly dispense with coy mating rituals and pour themselves into each other, recognizing their other half almost immediately. But there is still the pesky issue of Paisley’s health and her oppressively over-protective parents who in an effort to save her life have denied her the pleasures of living. This includes things as extreme as confiscating her phone to prevent her from contacting Malachi, and keeping her a virtual prisoner in their home when they grow concerned about this new attachment she’s formed. Malachi‘When Clouds Touch’ is a love story, but also struck me as being a fairy tale in the best sense. Paisley has an otherworldly quality in appearance that cause people to stop and stare; and a princess-like isolation from the real world, that is similar to Rapunzel locked in the tower. Because of her isolation, and because she recognizes Malachi as her meant-to-be, she wastes no time in letting him know that she is devoted to him. Malachi is her prince, seeking to rescue her from the tower, using first his charm and eventually his smarts to overcome Paisley’s parents’ resistance. All the things that Paisley hasn’t seen, he is determined to show her; and if she asks, he can’t say ‘no’ even when saying ‘yes’ puts her health and life at risk. No time is wasted in this book with the sometimes tedious ‘love-me, love-me-not’ stuff. Paisley and Malachi’s conflicts come from the limitations she has because of her health, and from her parents’ well-intentioned but damaging hovering and intervention. At first, as I read, I was waiting for ‘When Clouds Touch’ to show its romance-novel chops and become the kind of book one expects from that genre. But it never did. And the story was better off for it. When I let go of my preconceptions, the story and its characters settled in for me. I stopped expecting Paisley and Malachi to relate to each other as traditional romance novel heroes and heroines do, and I came to accept it as it was. Ey Wade’s writing is worthy of note as well, because it gave the story an almost mythical quality which I believe was fully intended. The imagery had a wistful, dreamlike feel, particularly in the scenes that played out in a field of bluebonnets, and at a festival that left the pale-as-a-ghost Paisley covered in all the colors of the rainbow. The color in those scenes for me symbolized the color and depth that Malachi brought to Paisley’s previously monochromatic life, and added to the overall mystical feel of the story.
Although at times I found the dialogue a little ‘romantic’ or sentimental, at other times it fit perfectly the theme of a love and bond that transcended time and space. And there was also something brave about the sentimentality when most writers these days (myself included) seem to be striving for the opposite by writing stories with gritty realism (but with a billionaire or two thrown in). So I applaud Ey Wade for going where so few writers dare to tread–not only in her style but in the unexpected, though not unsatisfactory climax to her book. ‘When Clouds Touch’ left me curious about what I may be missing by not having read other work by this author. But I suspect that when I do, those Paisley stories will–like this book–be somewhat magical, somewhat unexpected.
Then I recalled the earliest pages in this novel where Paisley and Malachi’s mothers both have moments where they felt their babies… but more importantly they were so in tune that they “knew” their child by a reaction felt in the womb. As a parent myself, I got it… That life that grew from almost nowhere was everything and forever was there a connection between parent and child. An uncontrollable desire to protect at all costs happens that just can’t be explained… So when Paisley’s parents demonstrated their helicopter behaviors and then some, it was because they loved her so much that they didn’t want to lose her again. Yes… again. Paisley’s health had many scares since she was born, including a time when they lost her and I am pretty sure that was something no one would ever want to experience again.
So Paisley’s parents erected barriers and essentially created a safe place or bubble for their little girl to live in, except she is no longer their little girl. Paisley is an adult woman and she is feeling things that any one of us would feel that “bubbles” can’t keep us from experiencing. Malachi – her soul mate – has been around her all her life, but it takes a chance encounter (or is it chance?) to finally allow their worlds to collide. At that point, there’s no turning back. Chemistry has taken hold of the situation and a curious Paisley and a love struck Malachi set out to help her experience life outside the safe cocoon that Paisley’s parents prefer to keep her in.
What I appreciated about this story is that Ey Wade was almost poetic with her descriptions and scenes. The scene that still stands out for me days after reading it was when Paisley and Malachi were lying under her wagasa, a large Japanese umbrella that Paisley carries everywhere to shield her from the sun. Malachi looks up at the filtered view of the sky through the wagasa and asks Paisley what she sees. Her response and view from beneath it saddened me, as she keeps her head down and moves quickly from place to place in her life. It’s when something halts her or curiosity gets the better of her does Paisley get a closer peek at what’s beyond the bubble… but it always costs her a little more than she’s ready for.
Ey Wade brings life into the world of a young woman that has been isolated in a place that her parents feel will protect her – from the harmful sun, from the germs of the world, from the judging eye of people that will make stupid comments about her rare features or fear her enough to wish her death – and gives her life through Malachi.
Reading “When Clouds Touch” made me curious about the author and her other works, which I will be checking out as well, and something I felt through her writing was confirmed. Ms. Wade takes special care in education, caring, protecting and connecting people that aren’t likely to find each other otherwise. I felt that in her “When Clouds Touch” and it made me care even more about Paisley when she would twist Malachi’s arm to do something her parents would otherwise object to or if a hand-to-the-chest moment popped up in the story. She also managed to do that while bringing less than ordinary characters that are unfortunately missing in so many pages and giving a story with an outcome that was purely unexpected – one that held my attention until the last page. As an author, Ms. Wade took great care in showing all sides of the story and why no side or character was ever really wrong or right. Everyone wanted the best for all in this story. Thanks to the storytelling of Ey Wade, so did I. And when you step into the story holding onto empathy for the cast of characters until the very end, you’ve walked into a good thing.