The Comet Seekers is a first novel about trying to live in the present while struggling to understand the past. The book starts and ends in the year 2017 in Antartica where Roisin, age 58, is studying Antarctica and comets. She chose to go to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey to get far away from her life in Ireland and difficult memories. Francois, age 31, is a cook, for the Antartica expedition. A relationship develops between the two of them and the book moves back and forth among years from as far back as the year 1066 through 2017. The back and forth focuses on the history of Roisin’s and Francois’ families and interconnections between the two. The constant theme is comets.
When we meet Francois’ mother, Severine in 1976 she is 14 years old, living in Bayeaux, France and watching the Comet West. She spends a great deal of time with her grandmother, who talks to the ghosts of her ancestors. Of course everyone except Severine thinks she is crazy. We learn that the ghosts appear with the comets and only speak to family members who have lost someone and committed to staying put in Bayeaux. When Severine’s grandmother dies, Severine commits to the ghosts and the past rather than living a life in the present and looking to the future. Through the ghosts, Severine learns a great deal of her past and we see the lives of Severine’s ancestors and Roisin’s ancestors intersect. “So many ways to be saved against what might hurt you, but no way to be saved from what has already happened.”
We meet a young Roisin in 1976 when she is 9 years old and charting the path of the Comet West in her village in Ireland. She and her cousin Liam are lying on the cold ground mapping the stars. Roisin moves from studying comets to studying planets and galaxies and works in a variety of countries including France, Scotland and Canada. In 2007 she is accepted to work in a program at New York University, which was her ultimate goal.
When Roisin experiences a difficult loss, she gives up her life in New York and goes on the Antartica expedition. Contemplating her loss, she muses that “there is perhaps a part of her that knows we are too small to matter.”
The novel ends with ghosts intermingling with comets and with us questioning whether Severine was truly communicating with ghosts or whether something else was at play.
I liked the way the book started but about midway it fizzled. The story is dark and the angst of the main characters, their perspectives on life and obsessions with the past and regret is very hard to take. Although the novel is less than 300 pages, it is repetitive and too long and parts of the story are inconsistent and flawed. The idea of the novel, the intermingling of science and the supernatural, and the creativity with which it is executed are excellent and tell me that Ms. Sedwick’s second novel will be vastly better and that we should keep an eye out for her. The novel will be released in October and you can reserve a copy at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11216866__Sthe%20comet%20seekers__P0%2C1__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold