I admit to a weakness for dystopian novels--particularly ones that seem plausible today and are told on a small, personal scale (like The Age of Miracles or Into the Forest). This one imagines a collapse of the global economy and electrical grid. Carson is on the east coast and is desperate to make his way to Beatrix, on the west coast. Beatrix, meanwhile, joins with her neighborhood to share resources and rebuild their lives. Hovering over these efforts is the persistent voice of Jonathan Blue, promising food and safety--but is the promised salvation too good to be true?
Dystopias tend to be persistently dark. The Lightest Object in the Universe was not without darkness, but true to its title, it offers more light and hope than any other novel I've read about similar circumstances. Filled with characters who are ready to offer help, empathy, encouragement, friendship, and family, Eisele offers a refreshingly optimistic view of human nature and behavior in the worst of circumstances. She weaves into the story examples of impoverished communities in Latin America where people band together in similar ways to survive. Maybe such community is too much to hope for if the fall ever does come to the U.S., but I like to think that thousands of communities like Beatrix's would rise again.
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“A triumphant story for anyone with a shred of faith left in the human spirit.” —David McGlynn, author of One Day You’ll Thank Me
What if the end times allowed people to see and build the world anew? This is the landscape that Kimi Eisele creates in her surprising and original debut novel. Evoking the spirit of such monumental love stories as Cold Mountain and the creative vision of novels like Station Eleven, The Lightest Object in the Universe imagines what happens after the global economy collapses and the electrical grid goes down.In this new world, Carson, on the East Coast, is desperate to find to Beatrix, a woman on the West Coast who holds his heart. Working his way along a cross-country railroad line, he encounters lost souls, clever opportunists, and those who believe they’ll be saved by an evangelical preacher in the middle of the country. While Carson travels west, Beatrix and her neighbors begin to construct the kind of cooperative community that suggests the end could be, in fact, a bright beginning.
Without modern means of communication, will Beatrix and Carson find their way to each other, and what will be left of the old world if they do? The answers may lie with a fifteen-year-old girl who could ultimately decide the fate of the lovers.
The Lightest Object in the Universe is a moving and hopeful story about resilience and adaptation and a testament to the power of community, where our best traits, born of necessity, can begin to emerge.