In brief: Jessica’s life unravels when her husband’s space company has a tragic event. This is what happened, told in emails to colleague Arthur.
The good: I enjoy books written in an epistolary structure.
The not-so-good: It takes a little while to get going in terms of plot and getting to know Jessica.
Why I chose it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury Sydney – thank you!
Pages: 309 (ARC)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
My rating: 7.5 out of 10
The meaning of the title of God is an Astronaut didn’t really make sense to me until the very end of the book – and even not very much then! Don’t be put off by the title – this is not about religion, nor excessively about space. The novel is told in a series of emails (107, the cover tells me) between our main character Jess (only her mum calls her Jessica) and work colleague at the university, Arthur. He’s gone off into the wilds for research, while Jess is stuck at home, teaching and tending to her children in between digging a greenhouse. Then disaster strikes as her husband’s space tourism company has a failed launch, killing all on board. Life changes dramatically with journalists in the garden, neighbours and friends acting strangely and then an awkward proposition. As the emails continue, we find out more about Jess and Arthur’s relationship and the strain on her marriage with Liam.
Jess appears lonely at first. Liam’s off fighting PR fires and she has nobody to talk to about a lawsuit against Spaceco, a dead pregnant woman or the problems with the children. She pours out her worries and grief to Arthur in between shopping sprees at Home Depot (which I guess is like Bunnings in Australia). Her university life is disappointing; sometimes it seems that the only person interested in botany is her. We never read Arthur’s words back to Jess, but it becomes clear that he knows her very well. Exceptionally well – enough to admonish her and encourage her. We already know that things aren’t so good with her husband.
Then, in a PR blitz, a filmmaker wants to make a documentary about Spaceco. How better to reassure the public of the safety of space travel than by sending up a wife and mother – i.e. Jess? In her preparation, Jess faces up to her fears and starts to take control. It’s not necessarily a happy time, but a time of learning.
I found God is an Astronaut to be a gentle read that sneaks up on you – at first, I found it a little hard to get into, only knowing Jess’s side of things, but the story got more involved as I realised what was going on with Jess’s relationships with Arthur and Liam. I liked the way the tone of the emails became more tense and snappy in the lead up to Jess’s flight, reflecting her fears. The email format holds more mystery for the plot, as we only had Jess’s word for it (and sometimes weren’t even sure if that was true as she seems to bury her head in the sand a lot!). I think the format made the story more alluring and mysterious. Well worth a read if you like a change from the norm – after all, what are you revealing in your emails?