Erika Swyler’s newest book, “Light from Other Stars” is complex, ambitious, touching, and masterful all at once. And it was exactly the best book to keep me turning the page during this endless January we’re having.
Author of “The Book of Speculation,” Swyler’s dual narrative follows Nedda Papas, who at eleven, witnesses the Challenger space shuttle launch – and subsequent explosion - at school in her hometown of Easter, Florida. Simultaneously, her father, a former NASA scientist, is testing his entropy-altering machine, the Crucible, and a terrible event causes the town to be swallowed into a sinkhole in time.
As an adult, Nedda is part of a four-member crew aboard Chawla, with the mission to lay the groundwork for a colony on a distant planet, because earth is dying out. Due to a pre-launch switch out of a critical element needed to support the spacecraft, the ship’s life support system is on, well, life support. And the astronauts’ health is deteriorating, starting with their vision.
To rectify the problem, Nedda reaches out to her mother, Betheen, also a brilliant scientist, who, after Nedda was born, and she lost a second child, a son, remained crippled by grief for years.
When the crisis in Easter envelopes Nedda’s best friend and her dad, Betheen and Nedda must work together, along with a local townsman who collects NASA’s junkyard discards, to set things right. And their solution to release the town from its bubble just may help Nedda and her fellow astronauts.
A story about grief, and loss, and love, and of course, secrets, “Light from Other Stars” is a wondrous book that stays with you long after you scan the last page.
My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.