Review: Civilization declines in new Eisele novel

“The Lightest Object in the Universe” (Algonquin Books), by Kimi Eisele

What would happen if the world experienced a global economic collapse? Imagine a time when the electrical grid fails, cellphones are dormant and the flu is as dangerous as the plague. In “The Lightest Object in the Universe,” author Kimi Eisele explores how humanity would have to evolve, relying on hope and love to ultimately sustain humankind.

Without a school of students to educate, high school teacher Carson decides to trek across the United States on foot in search of Beatrix. Even though they had only spent a few days together before the collapse, he never forgot her. He knows the journey will be very long and extremely dangerous, but Carson feels that facing these uncertain times with be easier with Beatrix by his side.

Along the way, Carson meets an interesting cast of characters. Gangs of ruthless children resort to violence in search of food. Forward-thinking individuals band together on bicycles to form a letter-carrying service. He also encounters several droves of families who travel in packs, determined to make it to The Center, a place for new beginnings. Pastor Jonathan Blue uses radio airwaves to broadcast the promise of a brighter future.

As a historian, Carson is interested in Blue’s unique broadcasting method. He’s also suspicious. If The Center holds the solution for all mankind, why is it cloaked in mystery?

Beatrix wonders the same thing. She uses the resources and talents from the individuals left in her town to bombard the airwaves, just like Blue. Instead of propaganda, she presents practical advice and her own brand of hope for all who listen.

Eisele places the fate of Carson and Beatrix’s love story in the hands of a young girl named Rosie Santos. Her choices will ultimately decide if Carson’s journey ends happily ever after. Will Rosie fall into the darkness of the collapse, or will she persevere and be the lightest object in the universe?