God is an Astronaut Synopsis:
The day of the accident, Jess is in the backyard with a chainsaw, clearing space to build the greenhouse she’s always wanted. And, as always, she is thinking of Arthur. Arthur, her colleague in the botany department, who never believed she’d actually start the project. Arthur, who has cut off contact, escaping to the subarctic to study the pines.
But now there has been a disaster, connected to Jess’s husband’s space tourism business: the explosion of a shuttle filled with commercial passengers, igniting a media frenzy on her family’s doorstep. Jess’s engineer husband is implicated, and she knows there is information he’s withholding from her, even as the cameras turn to her for answers.
Struggling, Jess writes to the only person she can be candid with. She writes to Arthur. And in her emails, freighted with longing, regret, and the old habits of seduction, she tries to untangle how her life has changed in one instant, but also slowly, and how it might change still.
Unfolding through Jess’s emails to Arthur, written in glimmering prose, this extraordinary debut is a dazzling modern-day love story. (Bloomsbury)
Alyson Foster’s fictional debut, God is an Astronaut, is a novel compromised solely of emails. What a fantastic concept – my expectations were set high.
What I did not expect was that Foster would only share with her audience one side of the conversation, only the emails penned by her protagonist Jess. At no point are we privy to the words penned by Arthur. Tricky.
But never mind, I like a puzzle. I found myself eagerly zoning in each email’s time and subject lines, especially the RE: ones to glean any additional information to assist in reading between the lines. Gradually the story and in particular the nature of Jess’s relationship with Arthur is revealed
Initially its construct and form heightened the mystery and my engagement with God is an Astronaut. After a little while though I became aware that my focus on the ‘puzzle’ was slowing down the rate at which I was engaging with the story.
“Alyson Foster is a brave writer, one I admire greatly for the intensity of her vision and her willingness to step into telling the difficult story of right now” – Lydia Netzer, bestselling author of Shine Shine Shine and How to tell Toledo from the Night Sky
I quote Lydia Netzer above because I think she’s captured my feelings about this title perfectly. God is an Astronaut and the characters within it are searingly modern. Foster’s writing is sharp and she’s kept the external dialogue of the characters involved realistically spare. The emotions of imperfect protagonist Jess are raw and her opinions caustic. Is she an unreliable narrator?
There are many heartwarming and humourous moments, often involving Jess’s children, but this is no Disney movie. While I felt sympathy for the predicament the protagonist found herself in, I often disliked the choices she made and the extent to which she owned them.
I was not dazzled or swept away by God is an Astronaut but it certainly made me think and feel. I look forward to seeing what Alyson Foster creates next.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5 — Overall 3.5
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Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery, Action-Adventure
Author Information: Alyson Foster grew up in Michigan and received her BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, winning a Hopwood Award for her fiction. She received her MFA from George Mason University, where she was a Completion Fellow, and her short fiction has appeared in various publications. Alyson Foster lives in Washington DC, where she works for the National Geographic Society library. Check out Alyson’s website.
* My receiving an uncorrected proof from Bloomsbury for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.