"Good Morning, Midnight," a post-apocalyptic novel set in a world transformed by an unknown disaster, has been selected as the Lake Oswego Reads title for 2018.
Author Lily Brooks-Dalton's fictional work unfolds as the world has come to an end — or has it? — and tells the story of two outsiders who find themselves on the fringes of civilization with no idea about what has happened.
Augustine, an aging astronomer, is isolated by the diasaster in a remote research post in the Arctic Circle, where he must preserve not only his own life but also that of a strange child who has wandered into his care. For astronaut Sully, the circumstances are just as grave — her spacecraft is making the long voyage home from Jupiter when mission control stops talking.
Together, they must confront an uncertain future, grappling along the way with issues of love, regret and survival.
"Earlier this year, we blasted into space with 'The Rise of the Rocket Girls,' says Bill Baars, director of the Lake Oswego Public Library. "For our next Lake Oswego Reads, we will move from science fact to science and fiction as we venture through the solar system on a voyage of planetary and communal discovery that mirrors a personal story of survival in a harsh and lonely terrestrial outpost.
"Lily Brooks-Dalton has written a haunting and thought-provoking novel with themes of loneliness, connection, endurance, regret, the search for meaning and the will to hope," Baars says. "I can't wait to start this conversation."
The novel, Brooks-Dalton's second book, was suggested for LO Reads by steering committee member Jacquie Shade and quickly rose to the top of 22 books considered for the 2018 program.
"I was working at a public radio station in Massachusetts when I had the idea for the book," Brooks-Dalton tells The Review. "In the winter, we had to clear the snow off the transmitter dish, and if it was storming overnight, someone had to stay and make sure the signal stayed strong by going out and cleaning the dish every hour or so. I started thinking about the loneliness of that job — being alone in the office, sleeping at your desk and then going outside into all that fresh, quiet snow to make sure the signal carried to our listeners. ... That was the seed of the book for me."
She says she was inspired to use space and the Arctic as settings because they are both "so desolately beautiful. And I wanted that conflict between beauty and bleakness to be a theme throughout the story."
Now in its 12th year, Lake Oswego Reads is designed to strengthen civic pride, foster discussion among the city's residents and bring the community together through the common bond of reading. The program turns the library into a cultural hub, with a variety of special events that feature speakers, music, food, art and more.
Most of the events are free, thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library, the Lake Oswego Rotary Club and The Lake Oswego Review.
Next year's official kickoff celebration is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2018, at the library. Complimentary copies of "Good Morning, Midnight" will be distributed to Lake Oswego Public Library cardholders, thanks to the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library. Special events will then be held throughout the month of February, including an appearance by the author.
"The hard part is finished — selecting our book for 2018," says Cyndie Glazer, program manager for Lake Oswego Reads. "Now the fun part begins of finding displays and events that will tie into the book."
Glazer and her Lake Oswego Reads colleagues are hoping to find QSL cards (a written confirmation of either a two-way communication between amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station) for a display. They'd like to locate a collection of Aurora Borealis photos and connect with local HAM radio operators for a demonstration, too.
Brooks-Dalton, who grew up in southern Vermont, says she is deeply interested in travel, writing and motorcycles. Those passions inspired her 2015 memoir "Motorcycles I've Loved," which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She moved to Ireland when she was 17 and worked her way around the world for three and a half years.
"Good Morning, Midnight" was published in 2016. It was named one of the best books of the year by both the Chicago Review of Books and Shelf Awareness, and has been praised as "ambitious," "masterful" and "powerfully moving."
Brooks-Dalton has degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Portland State University. She presently lives in New York City, where she is teaching at Catapult and working on a new project.
"This event sounds like an author's dream," she says. "I am truly honored to be invited and am counting down the days until Feb. 13 (when she'll read from her work at Lake High Oswego High School)."
"Good Morning, Midnight" was selected by the steering committee for Lake Oswego Reads, which consists of librarians, community leaders, high school English teachers and high school students. The committee had its work cut out for it: Last year's selection, Nathalia Holt's "Rise of the Rocket Girls," was an incredibly popular account of the women — called "human computers" — who helped launch America into space, breaking the boundaries of both gender and science along the way.
Committee members believe they've got another winner with "Good Morning, Midnight."
"Lily Brooks-Dalton offers readers the opportunity to ponder many of life's big questions, and to her credit she has not tried to answer them for us," says Joann Geddes, faculty emerita at Lewis & Clark College. "Neither the unfamiliar environments nor the stunning settings overwhelm the focus on interpersonal relationships that are poignant and real."
Andrew Edwards, executive director of the Lakewood Center for the Arts, calls "Good Morning, Midnight" a beautifully written story that explores relationships in extreme environments.
"In it, we discover the most important aspect of life — our connections and yearning for human contact," Edwards says. "Using themes of memory, loss, identity and elusive love, the story leads us to a sense of wonder and helps us reflect on the impact of our life's work."
Nancy Niland, a member of the City's Library Advisory Board and president of the Friends of Lake Oswego Public Library, echoes Edwards' thoughts and says that "Good Morning, Midnight" surprised her.
"I expected a dystopian novel about space, but instead found a riveting tale of man's relationship to the world around him and our universal human need for connection," she says. "I think this book will inspire interesting community discussion."
So does committee member Paul Graham, who describes "Good Morning, Midnight" as a book with two stories that improbably become one.
"Part of the story involves Space but is really about the spaces within us," says the longtime Lake Oswego resident and business owner. "Part of the story involves the lonely Arctic but is about the warmth of relationships. And then there is the unanswered mystery of the ending — what is it?"
To view the complete list of books the committee read before choosing "Good Morning, Midnight," visit www.ci.oswego.or.us/loreads/books2014. For Lake Oswego Reads updates, visit lakeoswegoreads.org.