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The Opening Sky

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
A stunning character-driven novel about the human desire to do the right thing, and the even stronger desire to love and to be seen for who we truly are. Deeply felt, sharply observed, and utterly contemporary.

Liz, Aiden, and Sylvie are an urban, urbane, progressive family: Aiden's a therapist who refuses to own a car; Liz is an ambitious professional, a savvy traveler wit
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by McClelland & Stewart
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(showing 1-30)
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Oct 12, 2014 Krista rated it liked it
Shelves: can-con, 2014
"If a lot of people are responsible then nobody is responsible?" she says with sudden emotion. "Is that better? Is that easier? To think that nobody is responsible?"

This quote, to me, is the crux of The Opening Sky by Joan Thomas: whether talking about individual responsibilities within personal relationships -- who's at fault, who should bend, who should apologise -- or our collective responsibilities towards the Earth, it's a fact of humanity that despite our best intentions, there is often
Joan Wilton
Aug 31, 2014 Joan Wilton rated it it was amazing
I'm a great believer that certain books come into your life at just the right time for a reason.

Joan Thomas' "The Opening Sky" was one of them! A terrific read.
Canadian Reader
Goodreads First-Reads Giveaway Book

After having dilly-dallied with a Ph.D. in English Literature for a significant part of his adult life, Aidan Phimester trained as a psychotherapist. For years, his common-law wife, Liz, a planned-parenthood coordinator, has been the chief bread-winner and decision maker in the home,inwardly resenting this role. Their already troubled common-law marriage--characterized as it is by deep ambivalence--is only to become further complicated when the couple receives
Aug 21, 2014 Kelsey rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I think that the synopsis blurb on Goodreads, that says it is for fans of Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault and Meg Wolitzer, is really accurate.
Sep 01, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a Goodreads FirstReads giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

Ideally I'd be giving this book 3.5 stars, but the writing in this book is just about enough to give it that extra half star.

There is a family crisis occurring and as in many cases, a lot of the underlying tension stems from events that happened many years previously. This new crisis is just bringing it all to the surface.

While I found the writing itself quite beautiful, and the story moved along, I really
Xondra Day
Jul 07, 2014 Xondra Day rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
*ARC via Goodreads First Reads and the publisher*

I liked the story, but not the characters all of which were unlikable:

Sylvie(Daughter): A very selfish eco-brat who is out of touch with reality who finds herself suddenly pregnant through a bout of stupidity.

Liz(Wife and Mother): Uncaring mother who doesn't seem to connect with anyone.

Aiden(Husband and Father): Way out there. A loser in some ways. Not quite grown up and a bit of a wimp.

Noah(Boyfriend to Sylvie): Space cadet.

All in all the story w
Oct 14, 2014 Courtney rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
*I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads first reads*

(3.5 stars) I had a bit of a hard time with this one. It's very well written, but I didn't find that I neither related to or even liked the characters so I wasn't drawn in. I know that I say this all the time but when the blurb talks about "a tragedy from years before, when four children went missing at an artists' retreat", I assume that it will come up before page 250. I don't like the feeling of reading while waiting for the inevitabl
Sep 09, 2015 Pamela rated it liked it
(view spoiler) ...more
Trevor Pearson
Aug 29, 2014 Trevor Pearson rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
Received a copy of The Opening Sky by Joan Thomas through the First Reads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review

"People with a seamless view of the world are intimidating, even when they're full of shit."

There is a highly-involved family drama that is going on in this story that is relevant to the people of Wolseley as well as to those across the country. It seems that every member of the Phimister-Glasgow clan with all of their varying personalities are going through their own per
Dorothy Lloyd
Oct 22, 2016 Dorothy Lloyd rated it did not like it
I didn't care much for it.
Alexander Kosoris
One problem with overanalyzing everything, as I tend to do, is that deeper meanings aren’t always readily apparent after a single reading. In the example of The Opening Sky, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the heavy-handed environmentalist preaching that suddenly appears partway in. Was this merely a measure of the author creating characters who are passionate and clumsy with regards to this issue, or was it Thomas’ beliefs coming across strongly, or some measure of both? Given the overall ...more
Carla Joules
Jul 06, 2014 Carla Joules rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a book that I won through a First Reads giveaway. It sat on my shelf for a few months before I stumbled on it again and picked it up to read. I was a little worried when I started reading this as it was a bit of a slow start for me, but I'm glad that I stuck with it as I did actually enjoy it once I got into it.

Liz, Aiden and and their nineteen-year-old daughter Sylvie are an ordinary, if somewhat dysfunctional family. When Sylvie comes home from college pregnant and in love with her chi
OK, so I gave this book two stars rather than one because other reviewers have said that the story part is good even though the characters are awful. There was no way for me to force myself to read the book so I gave the benefit of the doubt and added a star. In fact, at the third time I tried to force myself to read a few more pages, I remembered that life is too short to spend on books that I am hating to read.

I hated all of the characters, before I even 'met' them all. The daughter is a manip
Sep 07, 2014 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, 3m-cloud
I really enjoyed this one from Joan Thomas (I also really liked Reading by Lightning). All of the characters were complex and well drawn. sometimes I felt sorry for Sylvie, as a bright young woman whose ambitions are temporarily cut short by an unwanted pregnancy; other times, I wanted to slap the brattiness out of her, as she shows contempt for anyone who doesn't share her passion for the environment, but is unable to summon one ounce of love for her baby daughter. Her parents are also interest ...more
Christine Beaulac
Sep 20, 2014 Christine Beaulac rated it it was ok
Story line painful to follow. Got two-thirds in the book and decided to shelf it. I really didn't care about the story nor the characters, maybe a little bit about Aiden (the father and therapist who supposedly is an expert in human behaviour), but Sylvie, Liz and Noah (the android) were as annoying as someone talking to you as you're reading a good book (not this one).

Although there is too much pondering, a tighter edit would've given the novel more momentum. The book also falters with many irr
Nov 10, 2015 Karen rated it liked it
Sometimes you read a book and the characters are very familiar to you. That could be me, you think, or I know that kid. This Canadian author conjures up well-meaning, middle-class people and their angsty children and puts them in slightly uncomfortable positions: the earth mother whose kid got hurt on your watch; the dad who has to let his beloved daughter go; the teenager who gets pregnant and figures it out way too late. It is a moving book, with complicated characters and a frustrating ending ...more
Jul 01, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
Its takes a very long time in the plot to arrive at a place where the dramatic tension rises. When it makes this turn the book becomes far more interesting. I have given it a four stars rather than a three because, when this happens, the characters take on more depth and things are revealed that make you feel sympathetic towards them. Prior to this their lives seem very shallow and ordinary, almost cliche. The development of the characters is extremely well crafted and for this reason I would re ...more
Sherry Monger
Nov 15, 2014 Sherry Monger rated it liked it

A compelling family drama - Liz is an executive with Planned Parenthood and her husband Aiden is a family counsellor. Sylvie, their 19 year old daughter at university becomes pregnant and a full scale family crisis ensues. I enjoyed the writing, but sometimes found it overwrought and worthy of some extreme editing. Peeling back the layers, we discover family secrets festering below the surface.
Probably earns a 3.5 stars.
Shandi Leonard
Aug 31, 2014 Shandi Leonard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
Such a great book!!! I could easily see myself connecting with sylvie and the struggles she had to face. From dealing with her parents, to the secret her and her mother shared, the resentment and guilt she carried through childhood and the future and dedications she now has to make. Will sylvie ever forgive her mother? Will she release the guilt from her mind from when she was just a child? Will she make the right decisions for her future or will she succumb to the inevitable?
Apr 22, 2015 Margarita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
3.5 out of 5 stars

Thomas has really packed a lot into this novel in terms of theme, characters and plot. The effort is admirable and a good chunk of the writing is thoughtful. What didn't fully work for me was the excessively dramatic series of events - one big one could have sufficed - since Thomas does such an impeccable job of climbing into the lives of her characters. Her insights could have carried the story well enough along without the need for the excessive dramatic intrigue.
Sep 20, 2014 Lynn rated it it was amazing
The Opening Sky is a wonderful piece of fiction. It is about the lives of Aiden, Liz, & their daughter,Sylvie, at an unexpected juncture in their lives. It reminds us that things that happen in the past may be buried, but can always seek the light in unexpected moments. Beautiful prose, well worth the read.

Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Aug 21, 2015 Sherry rated it liked it
This is a story about an urban middle class family forced to confront dark and light situations. I didn't really find the characters in the story all that likeable, Sylvie seemed like a spoiled brat most of the time. However the book was very well written and enjoyable. A good reads giveaway thank you!
Aug 04, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
Clever book, it did a lot of interesting things. I think it appropriately captured the perspectives of different people, including their biases and defense mechanisms. It took me a little while to get into, but it gets immersive. The understanding of the prologue was a highlight.
Crystal Stlaurentt
Mar 15, 2015 Crystal Stlaurentt rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book and I loved it. The characters were strong and the family was completely dysfunctional but they all worked to be a family. The last talk between the mother and daughter really hit me and I realized how true the daughters thought was.
Sarah Langstaff
Mar 22, 2015 Sarah Langstaff rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed the writing style and the pages turned. I didn't end up finishing the novel because I didn't like any of the characters. I wanted more depth.
Nov 06, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it
This book had me really turned around. Such unlikeable yet compelling characters. Loved the Winnipeg angle.
Andrea MacPherson
Aug 05, 2014 Andrea MacPherson rated it it was amazing
This novel is gorgeous. I read it greedily. It's about responsibility, and memory, and love, and the environment, and regret, and uncertainty, and......

I'll be reading more of Joan Thomas.
Jun 09, 2015 Leslie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, dnf
I abandoned it after reading 50%. Nothing happened up to that point. Nothing! Even character-driven novels need some action.
Allyson rated it really liked it
Oct 06, 2014
Carole rated it liked it
Nov 15, 2015
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The Opening Sky won the McNally Robinson Award, was named a CBC Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Governor Generals Award for Fiction. Visit Joan Thomas at
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