The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele | Book Review

Eisele_LightestObject_PB_HR_rgbAuthor: Kimi Eisele

Illustrator: Pete Garceau, Steve Godwin

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Published: June 2020

Genres: Fiction, Sci-Fi

Pages: 352

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                       “Everything returns to its origin… Ready for repurposing.”                                            – Kimi Eisele, The Lightest Object in the Universe


Nothing is everything and everything is nothing in the grassroots, post-apocalyptic world of The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele. Similar to Jose Saramago’s Blindness, with a world that looks but does not see disparity past one’s nose, and unlike Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, with its bleak sparsity and savagery, here Eisele presents human nature at a crossroads with nature. The global economy and digital grid society depends on have failed; no more internet, American government, military, big pharma, corporations, transportation systems. Bartering is the new currency and modern medicine, an outbreak of the common flu (pre-COVID-19) ravages populations, wagons replace cars, and the only means for communication is a pack of cyclists, a rumored cross-country mailing service. Out of this blackout comes a return to basics with activists ready for revolution, teachers holding on to the past and reaching out to the future, friends and strangers made familiar and new, and star-crossed lovers defying the hard times from separate coasts.

The Lightest Object in the Universe has vulnerable and likeable characters, more tolerable than despicable too. Even the more suspicious faces, like a self-proclaimed preacher toting salvation, are not without reasonable persuasion. South American civil activist, Beatrix Banks, and Carson Waller, a Pennsylvanian high school history teacher, create a liminal backdrop for a seemingly dystopian end. It is only after the couple lose contact that their true nature withstands their fears and complacency. Headstrong as she is, Beatrix learns she cannot fight the good fight alone, so she joins and fosters a community in her neighborhood. Carson Waller chooses to leave his city and travel west to document the global collapse and to be with Beatrix. While there is no single antagonist in Eisele’s debut novel (the occasional uncivilized gang or slightly unhinged lost soul), minor and tame as they are, she does offer one sure villain at the end of the sidewalk: unpredictable, sometimes unpreventable, loss.

The loss of normalcy and the self that society could never define before and possibly never had a grasp of. The loss of things and people taken for granted and overlooked. Our scatterbrained and slapdash answers to loss, in the form of grief, self-importance, commercialized distractions, flag-waving, or simply suggesting the “right” suggestion or solution, makes another inadvertent and possibly irreversible consequence, an unnecessary heaviness. In these moments, the destruction becomes a form of creation, a new page to write and rewrite upon. Small gestures of kindness, love, and good deeds are challenged and welcomed in these times of uncertainty, which ultimately gives more connections than disconnections, an unexpected lightness. Eisele has wonderful pacing, adding time and awareness where it has been lost, savoring the ordinary and laying it bare. The journey breathes through its remarkable and endearing encounters, short-lived but never gratuitous, and chokes at its destinations. More than a timely precautionary and predictive tale, The Lightest Object in the Universe demystifies the rarely seen, too often mythologized and heavily advertised, subtlety in humanity with waves of ease and vigor.

Final Rating:

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Green Rose

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker | Book Review

Parker_PrairieFever_pbk_HRAuthor: Michael Parker

Illustrator: TK

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Published: May 2019

Genres: Fiction, Western

Pages: 320

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“Words written are said to mean more than words spoken.”

– Michael Parker, Prairie Fever

Literature about the late 18th and early 19th century American West attempts to capture a rustic yet robust era and culture in transition. A place too that lived beyond dictation and was possessed by the fortitude to expand the western frontier through ideas, some bad, others better, and few good. In Prairie Fever by Michael Parker, a boundless charisma conjoins two sisters from Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, head-in-the-clouds Elise Stewart and nose-to-the-grindstone Lorena Stewart, until a reported murder in the Kiowa County News and their retentive and inscrutable schoolteacher, Gus McQueen, jeopardizes their sisterhood. Elise is the younger sister who arguably never learns, turning facts into fantasy while personifying the family horse, Sandy, and its escapades. Lorena being older has no time to bend words, always precise in her speech and actions, as part of her wont to be prude. At the schoolhouse, Mr. McQueen is the outsider from Hibriten, North Carolina inexperienced in the teaching profession, numbing his sociability and sensibilities. The natural coercion between these three creates an inescapable, at times humorous, fractious trust and distrust in each other. They slowly realize their natures are both a fixed and fluid transitivity of love and cruel-to-be-kindness.

Three parts make up this pastoral and pictorial novel, each with a sense of depth equally distributed to both exteriority and interiority. Parker elevates the losses and denigrates the ego to consider the trepidations and triumphs in the landscape of life’s choices. He does this best in the enigmatic word choices, careful and deliberate as they are, hinting at the tumult and temperance of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era respectively. A confidence in communication and information also bodes translucent beliefs and disbeliefs in a tone as lilting as it is loud. Prairie Fever also does well to cast respites and rebukes with a multiperspectivity reminiscent of Small Island by Andrea Levy. Every word is held onto with conviction and gumption before they are challenged by and float away in the elements that change them and rarely return them. Words distort and sculpt, deviate and delineate, betray and justify actions. Those actions, those supposed scripted choices, easily meet an erasure and redrafting against the stubborn and spellbound hand’s desires. Prairie Fever is an oxymoronic trip, imbibed with dread-tinged hope, through the voice of time, seemingly invisible and slightly audible, that relays an ever transmuting historiography of human error, erudition, and efficacy.

Final Rating:

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It’s Lit!

Wisdom Lossed

Not Feeling Wise

“That was a wink to show I wasn’t loopy; it doesn’t show.”  

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t experienced an amnesia trip before, this should sound interesting. Just around the hour of  8:00 AM today, I had all four Wisdom teeth removed. What a wonderful way to start a rainy, Friday morning, right? Anything beforehand was still remembered, but after the fact and in an instant, nothing matters. I couldn’t believe I retained what I did when I rose from that relaxing, 45° lounge chair. The night prior was torture though.

I kept thinking to myself how they put you under for an hour at the most and assure you of no memory of it all whatsoever. That drove me even further to reassure myself that the year would still be 2014, even if the future people were convincing. I was dying for a midnight drink of water (yet the doctor prescribed no food for twelve hours) and considering how warm I was in bed, no matter how quick a gust of wind could be picked up from the ceiling fan, the night was sleepless for a good two-thirds of it. Just being a bit groggy from sleep had to be the worst sensation. You’re half able when you haven’t had breakfast because you can’t. You’re running on empty knowing you’d be asleep again like you never left your bed. I was hesitant up until the final moment. Mmmm…

Sorry, *smack* *slurp*, I was just taking dollops of a delicious Frosty. Talk about a smooth transition. Now for the twinge talk. Before the appointment, I had an assortment of pills, 3 of a kind. One was a preventative for possible infection during and after the procedure, the others are for pain. Of course the preventative pill was three times the size of its relatives; four of which I had to down with as much as a spoonful of water (too much water would cause an upset stomach afterward).

IMG_20140815_140005651_HDR

“On the left and right, pain pills, and in the center, the Peril Pills.”

An hour goes by, my father drives me to the office’s waiting room and the room holds six people, including us, of a possible fifteen or twenty. Reception was *vanilla’s so good* nice as always and they have to, otherwise who would want to avoid death row? “I bet I’m the first one back there,” I said to my father. One patient, younger than the girl in front of us and I, had been the first and was done within ten minutes of waiting; she had likely been there longer before our arrival. Then the woman sitting adjacently, was next. She and the girl before her were never seen from again, by us anyway. Third times the charm.

I’m guided to the operating chair, and just so you know it’s nothing like the dentist’s, the assistant lady doctor gave me the run-down, very nice and helpful once again, and she began the preparations. Wired tapings on my chest and sides, which I can imagine didn’t feel good coming off, a plastic, pulse pincher for your finger to read your heart rate, which jokingly became a nervous detector, and the stress ball to get your veins pumping and inflated. “Wired,” “pincher,” and “stress” are not words you hope to hear. On the bright side, the doctor was awesome, very subtle and soft-spoken; I could tell he’s been at his practice for a long while. Naturally I trusted him. We get to talking about his daughter, how she’s an English major and how that’s my goal later on in college and thereaft-

That pausing “-” meant a poke and prod of an indistinguishable needle at the top of my hand. I barely felt the sting and it didn’t take me by surprise but he calms me and goes on with the conversation. “What’s your favorite kind of literature?” he asks. “I’ve been leaning towards British Literature,” I reply. I tell him how it’s English yet it sounds like a different language when reading and saying it. I tell him how people quote literature sometimes without having ever read the source it came from. He laughs! I share my favorites like Edgar Allan Poe, describe their works and such. I wanted to mention Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but it didn’t cross my mind. He tells me to keep talking. I get to American Literature from Walt Whitman (which by coincidence happens to be my doctor’s name) and his book, Leaves of Grass, and how he’s a poet in his prose, just a natural speaker with soliloquies and speeches, as it seemed to me. Next thing I know, I’m attached to oxygen nozzles for my nostrils, my glasses are removed, and I draw a blank. Nothingness for forty minutes (according to my Dad) which only felt like five.

Poe-Whitman

“Representing those English greats!”

I wake up, sluggish, but sane and the lady takes me outside the exit of the building with my Dad at the ready with his get-away car. We parted ways and we never saw them or that building again. A happy ending? Not in the slightest. The whole ride home I was conscience and lucid, but for some reason the drive away and towards home brings up small images, slow and sudden like the kind in a View-Master. A blink here, a blink there and were home. I feel my face with a taped gauze hand, numb to the texture of rubber and casually I brush an elastic fashioned around me from head to chin. The gauze from the mouth was a bunch of a red blots, the right side of my lower lip went limp, so any chance of me speaking without unintentional flimflam or gushing dribble was not likely. To think something so fast would make you so slow.

Now I’m feeling better and the only drawback is a minor case of the hiccups and the salt water rinses. I took a pain pill midday and the gauze is relieving my bite. My only worry, and what will surely be a detriment soon enough, are the soft foods. I know cavemen used their molars since their diets consisted of hard, tough meats to chew, but I’m a carnivore too! Despite that fact not found in the already informative oral surgery pamphlet, I understand not risking the chance of crooked teeth, so there’s that. I guess it was worth it, but let me tell you something. Do it when you’re younger; the teeth aren’t fully developed then meaning less pain if any. For the next week it’s nothing but oatmeal, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese, and things of that sort. I had three soft-tissue and one grown Wisdom teeth. Gone. It wasn’t such a bad procedure, but I appreciate the ice cream godsend.

I always thought wisdom was a good thing, but I learned some advice is better than others.

More ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!