In The Smallest Lights in the Universe, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager interweaves the story of her search for meaning and solace after losing her first husband to cancer, her unflagging search for an Earth-like exoplanet and her unexpected discovery of new love.
Sara Seager has made it her life’s work to peer into the spaces around stars – looking for exoplanets outside our solar system, hoping to find the one-in-a-billion world enough like ours to sustain life. But with the unexpected death of her husband, her life became an empty, lightless space. Suddenly, she was the single mother of two young boys, a widow at forty, clinging to three crumpled pages of instructions her husband had written for things like grocery shopping – things he had done while she did pioneering work as a planetary scientist at MIT. She became painfully conscious of her Asperger’s, which before losing her husband had felt more like background noise. She felt, for the first time, alone in the universe.
In this probing, invigoratingly honest memoir, Seager tells the story of how, as she stumblingly navigated the world of grief, she also kept looking for other worlds. She continues to develop ground-breaking projects, such as the Starshade, a sunflower-shaped instrument that, when launched into space, unfurls itself so as to block planet-obscuring starlight, and she takes solace in the alien beauty of exoplanets. At the same time, she discovers what feels every bit as wondrous: other people, reaching out across the space of her grief. Among them are the Widows of Concord, a group of women offering consolation and advice, and her beloved sons, Max and Alex. Most unexpected of all, there is another kind of one-in-a-billion match with an amateur astronomer. Equally attuned to the wonders of deep space and human connection, The Smallest Lights in the Universe is its own light in the dark.
Reviews of The Smallest Lights In The Universe
- Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology in 2020
- ‘Her story is sure to help any readers grappling with a similar loss… Full of blues and blacks, written in the ink of grief, suffering, healing and — ultimately — clarity…’ Anthony Doerr, The New York Times
- ‘Seager’s beautifully written memoir strikes the perfect balance, weaving a richly told personal story with a clear and accessible tale of the birth and development of a new kind of astronomy – the search for other worlds like our own’ Katie Mack, astrophysicist, author of The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) ‘I absolutely loved this book. It presents both cutting-edge science and the deeply human side of a MacArthur award-winning woman astrophysicist. While searching for other planets in the universe, she grieves for her husband who died of cancer’ Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain
- ‘The miracle of this breathtaking book is the way Sara Seager’s search for life in the universe mirrors her search for a fitting life here on earth. Who knew that so much love and beauty and hope could come from so much confusion and fear and grief? Who knew that the macrocosm and the microcosm could end up being the very same thing?’ Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss