Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Shelf Life [adult]

God Is An Astronaut by Alyson Foster
@SPL FIC Foste
Jess Frobisher is all about plants; her husband Liam is all about space. Somehow they’ve always met in the middle – until now. Jess is a botany professor at a small college, and as the story opens she is madly digging up her yard to put in an enormous greenhouse. This greenhouse is fated to fail; just as in her wider life, growth and fecundity is stagnating. Liam, on the other hand, is in the midst of a maelstrom. His space tourism company, Spaceco, is being beseiged with press after their latest shuttle exploded after takeoff with four celebrity tourists onboard.
Jess wants to help, but Liam's propensity for secrets and emotional distance puts her at a major disadvantage. She is so thirsty for emotional connection that she talks to a reporter who has made overtures of friendship. This, as you might imagine, has vast repercussions on both Spaceco's crisis and on her marriage.
As this crisis continues, Liam jumps at an offer from a husband-and-wife filmmaking team to create a documentary about Spaceco and the families behind it. He’s hoping that it will result in some good PR spin. But being put in the spotlight (literally) changes the way the story unfolds for Jess and Liam.
The story is told in a series of emails that Jess sends to her colleague Arthur, who has gone on sabbatical to study trees in Manitoba. Yes, he is near Winnipeg, and there is some Canadian content here, including a discussion of the relative merits of Tim Hortons' doughnuts (or 'donuts' if you will). The format of the book – we see only Jess's one sided emails -- gives us a slowly expanding sense of the truth of all her relationships and of the major events that she is relating. As the emails get longer, and the story deepens, we see that sometimes our true desires are hidden even from ourselves, until they are suddenly there in black and white.
It’s an engaging read, set just far enough into the future that space tourism is a reality, but also very grounded in our everyday normality. Jess writes her way through a dramatic midlife crisis, and makes her way through to the other side, taking readers along for the ride. Readers who enjoy getting to know their characters well will want to pick up this book.

Published in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Melanie Kindrachuk, Public Service Librarian.

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