What would you do to survive the end of times? Kimi Eisele’s debut novel, The Lightest Object in the Universe, looks to answer that question and showcase how a new world could rise from the ashes of the old one through the grit and resilience of a community of people. Originally published last year and now available in paperback, this book shows that even in dark times, there is room for the smallest bit of light, and sometimes that’s all you need.
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 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.
Reminiscent of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, this novel doesn’t focus on an apocalyptic event, but on the aftermath of such an event. The story shifts between Carson, who is traveling West; Beatrix, who is trying to leave her mark on her new community; and Rosie, a fifteen year old girl who is still learning things about the world. The way these characters’ stories intertwine shows how certain people touch our lives in unique ways and the way Eisele alternates POVs keeps the story engaging.
That being said, I think the most fascinating part of this book is its emphasis on humanity and the resilience of human beings. Even though the world has been plagued by viruses, the fall of capitalism, and loss of technology, the people in this book band together and try to survive. Some people are kind and others not so much, but Eisele does a fantastic job of highlighting the different kinds of people in the world and showing how they all interact with one another. It also shows how people’s true colors seem to come out in the end and how certain choices define who we are as humans.
This is not your stereotypical apocalypse book: it doesn't showcase rebel wars or action-packed scenes. Instead, it focuses on the human experience and what it takes to survive when all you have driving you forward is hope. While this novel takes a bit to get into and the end result isn't clear, this novel is beautifully written and should be a book everyone reads at least once, especially during these uncertain times.
*I received a copy of the book from Algonquin Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
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