And no more personal power: the bold bravado, the unwavering invincibility, the belief that they would always be on top, delivered from despair – because delivery was what they knew and delivery was what they believed they were entitled to.
I hadn’t actually heard of this book until I was invited on the blog tour, and when I looked it up I was curious about the idea of it but admittedly a little wary of a book that seemed quite so timely. I’m so glad I read it after all, it was nothing like the other post-apocalypse stories that I’ve read lately. The paperback release day is June 30th 2020, and it should definitely be on your list for pick-me-up reads.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Algonquin Books for the review copy of this wonderful novel, and for inviting me onto the blog tour. This has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: large-scale background deaths and character death (typical for post-apocalypse stories), pandemic, grief, non-consensual drug use, cult suicide.
After a global economic collapse and failure of the electrical grid, amid escalating chaos, Carson, a high school teacher of history who sees history bearing out its lessons all around him, heads west on foot toward Beatrix, a woman he met and fell hard for during a chance visit to his school. Working his way along a cross-country railroad line, he encounters lost souls, clever opportunists, and those who believe they’ll be delivered from hardship if they can find their way to the evangelical preacher Jonathan Blue, who is broadcasting on all the airwaves countrywide. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Beatrix and her neighbors turn to one another for food, water, and solace, and begin to construct the kind of cooperative community that suggests the end could, in fact, be a promising beginning.
But between Beatrix and Carson lie 3,000 miles. With no internet or phone or postal service, can they find their way back to each other, and what will be left of their world when they do? The answers may lie with fifteen-year-old Rosie Santos, who travels reluctantly with her grandmother to Jonathan Blue, finding her voice and making choices that could ultimately decide the fate of the cross-country lovers.
What did I think?
I’ve read a lot of books about the world ending, but Kimi Eisele’s THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE is really a story about the world beginning. And god, it’s beautiful. It absolutely has its dark moments, covering both the mass loss of any apocalyptic setting and the loss of friends and family in the aftermath. There’s also an extremely dark scene towards the end of the novel, related to the trigger warnings listed at the top of my post. Those dark moments are perfectly balanced though, and what I loved about this book was the hope threaded through the entire thing. When I finished the final page I honestly hugged my kindle to my chest for a minute because it left such a positive impression on me that it had me a little weepy.
Initially I was a little concerned that I might not be well suited for the book because I’m used to fast-paced books, but after the 30% mark I couldn’t put it down anyway! THE LIGHTEST OBJECT is slow paced, but in a beautifully measured way. It’s not rushing towards a finale but slowly building. Which is fitting, because THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE is all about rebuilding. I think that’s what makes it so appealing, especially with the world the way it is right now. Rather than focusing on the immediate destruction like most post-apocalyptic stories I’ve read, Beatrix and Carson’s story is about societies rebuilding themselves from the ground up. And it was incredible to see.
People in this story are, with a few significant exceptions, inherently good. They’re protecting themselves and their family but they’re not going out of their way to hurt each other if they can share and show kindness instead. There’s a beautiful moment when a moment of conflict is resolved by Carson teaching would-be robbers to identify safe food, instead of attacking back. I loved seeing people working to better their community, even if it did make me realise I have absolutely no marketable skills in-case-of-apocalypse. I need to learn how to grow food or dig a well, stat.
The sub-plot around Blue was interesting but honestly? I was so interested in the Halcyon radio station and the development of Beatrix’s settlement, and in Carson’s cross-country trek that even if that big (and well-written, don’t get me wrong) plot was removed, I’d still have adored this book. The characters were all just realistically well-rounded, skilled and flawed in lots of different and fascinating ways, and I loved seeing how people fit their skills to the situation to all help out.
I struggled a little with the POV switches, though that may have been the formatting in the eARC that I had. The POV between Carson and Beatrix switched without much warning or significant line breaks. Even if that wasn’t a formatting mistake in the eARC I did get used to it eventually and it didn’t detract much from the reading experience. In the end I absolutely loved this book and if anyone has been feeling a lot of ‘the world sucks’ blues lately, I would recommend THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE – the ending made me feel like there was a whole new world waiting to be built from scratch.
Add it on Goodreads here!