BKMT READING GUIDES
by Meg Howrey
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“A transcendent, ...
A brilliantly inventive novel about three astronauts training for the first-ever mission to Mars, an experience that will push the boundary between real and unreal, test their relationships, and leave each of them—and their families—changed forever.
“A transcendent, cross-cultural, and cross planetary journey into the mysteries of space and self. . . . Howrey’s expansive vision left me awestruck.” —Ruth Ozeki
“Howrey's exquisite novel demonstrates that the final frontier may not be space after all.” —J. Ryan Stradal
In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves.
In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space’s team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other.
Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, The Wanderers explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.
Editorial ReviewAn Amazon Best Book of March 2017: The premise is simple: three astronauts – one American, one Russian, one Japanese – participate in a simulation of the first-ever mission to Mars before embarking on the real thing. They are selected as a trio based on complementary skills and personalities: unflappable, endlessly capable Helen is the oldest at 53, a widow with a brilliant but slightly off-kilter daughter; Sergei is the charismatic, hot-headed jokester of the crew (by astronaut standards) with two sons and a recent divorce; Yoshihiro is observant and good-natured, providing balance where needed. We learn about the astronauts' families as much as them as the book is told from alternating characters’ perspectives – including that of a team psychologist. The story stretches beyond the claustrophobic simulation to depict a Russian teenager exploring his emerging sexuality, a young virtual reality actress performing with equal parts ambition and angst, and a fiercely independent businesswoman struggling with the unspoken compromises of marriage. As the plot unfolds, the simulation, set in the Utah desert, becomes increasingly real, with each astronaut warping differently under the stress, loyalties straining to not fray. It’s addictive watching such highly disciplined characters discover what they can reveal to themselves and each other in months' long close quarters. Best of all, the author follows through on the questions raised: each astronaut writes letters to an important family member that are plaintive but plainspoken in what they reveal about what it means to be a mother, a husband, and a lover. For those lured by the Station Eleven comparison: that book’s a Vin Diesel movie compared to this one. This rewarding voyage within is more along the lines of The Martian, as conceived and written by Anne Patchett. —Katy Ball, The Amazon Book Review
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