The Wanderers by Meg Howrey (A Review by Sarah Ryan)
Funded by a private space company, 3 astronauts take part in a simulated trip to Mars.
Helen is a legend in her field. Sharp and self-sufficient, she’s desperate for what could be her last chance to walk among the stars but agonizes over how it’ll affect her already fraught relationship with her daughter.
Sergei has always taken on the toughest challenges, not for the adrenaline rush, but to prove himself to his father. Now a parent to two boys, he must bridge the gap between who he wants to be and who he really is.
Methodical wordsmith Yoshi has always felt a bit of an outsider. In order to succeed, he must confront his personal ghosts. This means accepting that there’s not just a physical distance between him and his wife.
Under constant surveillance, the astronauts self-police their behavior. One wrong move could jeopardize the project and their careers. While there’s little in the way of dramatic action, tension certainly builds as they must come to terms with this unusual scenario. They know they’re ‘pretending’, yet face real challenges with real consequences. I can’t say I envied them. And as time goes on, the line between reality and simulation begins to blur…
I was expecting this to be a hard sci-fi novel but was pleasantly surprised by how personal it was. The chapters focus on one astronaut at a time, giving it a voyeuristic yet intimate feel. By the end, I felt like I knew them better than some my loved ones. Speaking of which, we’re also introduced to the astronauts’ families. I like how they were fully realized people, not just devotees referenced only in passing. This is especially the case with Mireille and Madoka, who try to supportive but wrestle with living in someone else’s shadow.
After reading this, it’s safe to say I’m not cut out to be an astronaut (I know, I know, I’m surprised too). Nevertheless, I enjoyed this intelligent and tender novel. I think it’d make a great selection for GBC.
Review by Sarah Ryan