cover image The Smallest Lights in the Universe

The Smallest Lights in the Universe

Sara Seager. Crown, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-57625-9

Planetary astrophysicist Seager looks back on her life through the lens of her passion for stargazing in this brilliant, emotionally wrought memoir. A socially awkward child, Seager shuttled between divorced parents in 1970s and ’80s Toronto. At age 10 on a camping trip, she discovered the stars—“I stood and stared... a little girl who understood how to navigate... a big city and a broken home, but who now had been given her first glimpse of real mystery.” A canoe trip in 1994 cemented her relationship with fellow outdoor enthusiast Mike, and during her graduate work at Harvard she researched exoplanets. She joined the faculty of MIT in 2006, and married Mike, with whom she had two sons. She received prestigious science awards and was named chair of a key NASA project; but in 2011 Mike was diagnosed with and soon after died from colon cancer. Seager’s fragile balance of career and single motherhood was strengthened by two chance meetings—with a young widow and a fellow stargazer named Charles Darrow. Her life was again reignited with friendship and love, and bolstered when she received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2013. Seager’s openhearted prose is clean and exact, and her observations—“We want to be a light in somebody else’s sky”—illuminate the human drive to connect with others. This wondrous tale of discovery, loss, and love is both expansive intimate. [em](Aug.) [/em]