Review by Heather Haunert
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton is a highly engaging story that propels you forward to the end at incredible speed. This tale encompasses two desolate settings on a post-apocalyptic Earth: a scientific facility in the frozen Arctic, and deep space aboard the Aether on its return flight from a mission to Jupiter.
We begin our story with Augustine, an ancient scientist left behind at the Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle. “Augie” wants to be left to live out his remaining days in solitude and loneliness; therefore, he refuses to leave when the other scientists make a mass exodus back to civilization with an impending apocalypse looming in Earth’s very near future. Augustine believes his mark on the world will be his incredible work as a scientist. As the story unfolds, he begins to question if his scientific achievements are what he wants to be his life’s legacy.
Mere days after everyone has left the observatory for the last time never to return, Augustine finds a young, abandoned girl in one of the dormitories. Iris is a highly intelligent 8-year-old that rarely speaks but becomes the companion Augie didn’t realize he needed or wanted at the end of his life. While Iris‘s silence does not bother Augie, her frequent bouts of absence to other parts of the observatory are very disconcerting to him. As weeks and months wear on, Augustine comes to realize her importance to him: he loves her.
Specialist Sullivan, “Sully,” is an astronaut aboard the Aether. She has given up everything in her pursuit of space. She is one of six crew members aboard the spacecraft as it begins the long journey back to Earth. Their communication with Mission Control suddenly goes silent. For weeks and months on end, they contemplate plausible reasons for the radio silence and the possibility of no life left on Earth. As scientists, they struggle with ideas that make sense. They all agree that a solar event would not cut communication for such an extended period. If it were a nuclear fallout, they would have received readings of the activity. The most likely scenario is an outbreak of some kind, but they all question how a global catastrophe could have happened overnight.
Told in alternating perspectives between Augie and Sully, we uncover their life stories as the chapters unfold: the loss, regret, and guilt of two lifetimes. As the stories weave together, a connection between the two becomes evident. The solitude they experience for months on end allows them to struggle and finally come to grips with an uncertain future on Earth and for themselves.
The phenomenal ending will leave you thinking not only about the implications it has on the story but the meaning of life itself.