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Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (3/5)

8 Aug

I bought this book when I visited Powells in 2017 because it was compared to Station Eleven. I was excited to see it was offered as an audiobook from my library so my husband and I started listening to it during a long car trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish it and when we went to check it out for the next car trip, the file was no longer available! We finished it reading out-loud to each other in the car and then in bed to finish it up. One way or another, we were going to finish it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Summary from Goodreads:

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?

The premise of this book sounds interesting but in reality, it’s really boring to be alone. It’s also boring to read about being alone. The first half of the book had this problem. As we did flashbacks and set up the story to come, it was dull. Not much happened and the small things that did happen were mostly in flashback. It was frustrating not knowing what had caused the catastrophe. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but we never find out what it was. I wanted to know so badly because it felt like Brooks-Dalton wrote half of a story. It felt like the build-up to a great adventure but it ended before it started. There was some good plotting, don’t get me wrong. However, my husband and I saw the two big twists coming well before they were revealed. The good characters didn’t redeem the problems I had with the plotting of the book.

I liked the characterization of the people on Aether and how they dealt with the uncertainty on Earth. With the number of people on board, they were able to portray a lot of different ways that someone might deal with possible death and loss. They were all at different stages of grief and I liked being in Sully’s head and hearing how she was dealing with it.

Harper was my favorite character. He was very ‘captain-like.’ He was easily in charge and very confident which came across well in the story. He also came across as a strong, silent type and extremely attractive. But he was very professional and it wasn’t until the very end that it seemed like he and Sully might have a romantic relationship. I liked that about him. It seemed like he realized when it was OK to cross the professional boundary.

I’ve never been as alone as these characters and it’s hard to think of any situation where I would have had a similar mentality. I’ve felt that alone but it’s all in my head and never lasted as long. I’ve probably been as retrospective as them, though.

Lily Brooks-Dalton
Image via The Independent

I liked the parts of the book Sully narrated best. I think it was because she had more people to interact with and it didn’t feel as remote despite them being in space. Auggie’s story seemed really flat to me and his backstory was pretty dull. Iris barely talked so she didn’t add much to it.

The end of the book frustrated me and I’m going to spoil it so skip ahead if you don’t want to know. I felt like the end of the book was the first half of a book I wanted to read more. I would have loved the adventure of exploring a world that had been devastated by something. You’re either the only ones or there was some communication knock-out that left everyone isolated that you have to deal with. I felt frustrated with the book when the big reveal on the final page wasn’t much of a reveal and then it ended earlier than I wanted.

The audiobook I listened to had two narrators, John H. Mayer and Hillary Huber. I liked having two people narrate the two leads in this book. It would have felt odd to have a man reading for Sully or a woman for Auggie. Both had good voices for this and gave the story the gravity it was due.

Both characters were searching for what gave them meaning when there wasn’t much left. That was a good thing for me to think about. When Auggie had nothing left, he wanted to reconnect with his daughter. When Sully had nothing left, she regretted the time she didn’t spend with her ex-husband and daughter. It’s spending time with family that we’ll regret, not working.

Writer’s Takeaway: Brooks-Dalton had two big twists planned but I honestly saw them coming. The one Auggie figured out was a little more obvious to me, but I liked how she threaded the other one in. (Trying not to give anything away.) It was interesting to see how slowly the connection was revealed and how it took until the very end for it to come full circle. I liked that element of the plotting even if the rest of it wasn’t for me.

Overall, I had some issues but still enjoyed the book. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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