That had always been her dream; space, not a location within it, just space. (9)
Deeply philosophical, The Wanderers by Meg Howrey is like one big question that asks us about our identity, where we belong, and what can bring us back to Earth. Not just a series of questions, the plot and characters are composed with the tender care of an artist. They are so beautifully strung together and connected by a tenuous string which holds us and them together.
Everything is something that can be taken away from you. (65)
The Wanderers is a story which revolves around one space crew’s mission to Mars and the vigorous training that occurs before and during their preparation. In their case, since the quest to set foot on Mars is a matter of humanity’s desire to touch the stars (and not motivated by a government) the stakes are high. They must go through a very realistic simulation months before the actual launch and this involves recreating their final moments on earth and all sorts of problems that could occur. But as they spend more time in this fantasy, their ability to tell what is real crumbles and brings about questions about themselves as they stretch their fingers towards the red planet.
Earth was so much more beautiful if space, when you could just look at it, not be on it.
What I enjoyed the most from The Wanderers was the philosophical questions brought up and the way that the characters play with these ideas. It is like watching a space ballet, where they orbit and dance around each other, moving in harmony all the while moving towards some climax. These characters are all, to some degree, drifters and they are all exposed by this simulation, family and astronauts alike. The ways in which they are woven together is brilliant. Because we are able to see from their eyes, the experience of all of these moving parts that slowly come together is heightened.
To have done this is to understand the persistence and permanence of falling and to understand that what is true does not always feel like what is true. It doesn’t feel like falling to stand on Earth. It doesn’t feel like falling and missing to circle around it. (114)
In addition, the whole perspective is so unique: the idea of looking at our experiences of space on Earth. There is a lyrical trickery that is just so spot on. The juxtaposition between our isolation in near spaces is highlighted by their simulation. Even I was questioning the simulation at the end. This book asks us how do we find those we leave behind? (whether it be to go to college or to Mars) How do we find ourselves when our feet touch the ground? The process of merging all of these different versions of our selves together, extensively explored by Madoka who is my favorite character, is a challenge we all have, no matter what planet we are on.
I have loved your incorrectly. I have been orbiting a dream I cannot touch. I only know one of your faces. It is not that I didn’t want to know another face, it is that I loved that one so powerfully. (351)
The time I spent reading this felt like an interplanetary experience. Even days after finishing this, I still look back with wonder and awe. I am never fully settled on my answers to these questions, but merely content with continually circling this question. Wondering where I belong and how to make peace with my selves. Throughout our lives we continuously wander. We wander from place to place, purpose to purpose, and we explore our space in the world. All with the aim of ending our exploration, of touching down, and having a sense of identity and place. Together with the way the characters connected to each other and the ideas swirling around, it felt like we were all orbiting around this grand question. I too felt like a Wanderer.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from First to Read.
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