Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: "Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton

This book was absolutely extraordinary.

Loneliness is a powerful emotion, yet you can feel just as lonely while spending time with people, or in the middle of a crowd, as you might when you're completely alone. Lily Brooks-Dalton's powerful, haunting, contemplative debut novel, Good Morning, Midnight, is a meditation on loneliness, regret, ambition, love, and loss, through the eyes of two unique people.

"He was drawn by the isolation and the punishing climate, the landscape that matched his interior. Instead of salvaging what he could, he ran away to the top of an Arctic mountain, nine degrees shy of the North Pole, and gave up. Misery followed him wherever he went. This fact didn't faze him and it certainly didn't surprise him. He had earned it, and by then he expected it."

Augustine was once a brilliant astronomer, known as much for his devotion to his research as his self-destructive behavior and his reputation as a cruel manipulator of women. At the end of his career he is stationed in an Arctic research center, when news spreads that a catastrophe has affected the world, and all of the scientists must evacuate. But Augustine stubbornly decides to stay put, even though he knows he may never leave. While to his surprise he discovers a mysterious child abandoned in the research center, and that helps assuage his loneliness, when he discovers that the radio waves have gone silent, he wonders what will become of them.

"Even as a little girl the emptiness had called to her, and now she was a wanderer too. Remembering how her journey had begun distracted her from the uneasy question of how it might end."

At the same time, the crew of the Aether has just finished a groundbreaking voyage to Jupiter, going further into space than any before them. Mission Specialist Sullivan reflects on her journey to this moment, and the cost of this achievement—the end of her marriage, barely knowing her daughter. Yet traveling into space is all she has ever thought of, so she has convinced herself that the sacrifices were worth it. But when Mission Control goes silent for reasons they cannot explain, the crew must grapple with the idea that they may never make it home to Earth, and even if they do, life will not be the same as it was when they left.

Does pushing people away make you stronger, or does it leave you more vulnerable? What is the price of achieving your dreams, of reaching the pinnacle of your career, if you really have no one to share that with? Is it ever too late to make a true connection? These are some of the questions Augie and Sully ponder in this beautifully written book.

This truly blew me away. Brooks-Dalton created so much suspense that I kept waiting for a tragic event (beyond whatever has happened on Earth) to occur, yet I couldn't stop reading. I felt what these characters were feeling, and could picture what they were seeing so vividly, and that is a testament to her amazing strength as a storyteller.

It took a little while for the story to get going, but once it did, it honestly moved me and took hold of my heart. It reminded me a little of Peter Heller's The Dog Stars and, although I'm always loath to agree with the comparisons publishers draw, it also had a little bit of Station Eleven in it as well, but for those of you who were unimpressed by that book, it's more similarity of the feelings I felt than the actual plot.

I can't stop thinking about this, and wish the book were longer, because I want more time with these characters. Kudos to Lily Brooks-Dalton for creating an utterly captivating, gripping, truly beautiful world, and giving us the chance to visit.

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