Brooks-Dalton set for Lake Oswego Reads visit
Loneliness, connection, endurance and regret. The search for meaning — and for hope.
Those are some of the themes readers will find in "Good Morning, Midnight," this year's selection for Lake Oswego Reads, and they'll likely be topics for author Lily Brooks-Dalton next week when she discusses her novel during a visit to Lake Oswego.
Brooks-Dalton is scheduled to lead her presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Lake Oswego High School auditorium (2501 Country Club Road in Lake Oswego). Admission is by ticket only, although those without tickets will be seated in unfilled seats at 6:45 p.m.
Author visits are among the most anticipated events of the Lake Oswego Reads program, and Brooks-Dalton says she's excited to participate in some of the events planned around her novel.
"I am excited about it," she says. "I look forward to coming to Oregon. It has been fun to have people read and discuss the book."
"Good Morning, Midnight" unfolds as the world is coming to an end 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 a disaster in a remote research post in the Arctic Circle, where he must preserve not only his life but that of a child who has wandered into his care. For astronaut Sully, the circumstances are just as grave — her spacecraft is making a long voyage back to Earth from Jupiter when mission control stops talking.
They both face uncertain futures, grappling along the way with issues of love, regret and survival.
Brooks-Dalton says she has always been fascinated by science, which plays a crucial role in her book.
"I love the ideas but have no talent for the foundational skills and math behind it," she says, adding that she chose the Arctic Circle as a setting first, primarily because she wanted a cold, isolated, bleak environment to put her character on the brink of humanity.
"I grew up in New England, which gets quite a bit of snow," she says. "The quiet of the snow strikes me as romantic, dangerous and beautiful. I wanted the conflict between beauty and bleakness to be a theme throughout the story."
She says she needed a spirit animal for the novel, too —- a polar bear, which exists only in the Arctic Circle.
Outer space is equally remote and bleak, of course, with its own set of obstacles to survival. But despite the desolate locations, connection is also a theme for Brooks-Dalton. She illustrates the concept in several ways, including radio communication — both high- and low-tech.
"Radio is magic!" Brooks-Dalton says, and it turns out that she was working at a public radio station in Massachusetts when she was inspired to write "Good Morning, Midnight."
"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," she says. "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 that signal carried to our listeners. ... That was the seed for the book for me."
Brooks-Dalton says the character of astronaut Gordon Harper is named for one of her grandfathers, and Augustine was inspired by another grandfather, an alcoholic who got sober later in life.
"He reconciled with his mistakes. It's never too late," she says. "We all have a darker side, and it benefits us to take a look at our darker self and shape our lives toward hope and the future."
Brooks-Dalton says the novel's ending is intentionally uncertain.
"I wanted to end on a note of uncertainty because we all face uncertainty in life," she says. "But in the end, it's less about the outcome than the striving and hope."
Brooks-Dalton earned her MFA from Portland State University and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at PSU, her memoir "Motorcycles I've Loved" (Riverhead, 2015) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.
"Good Morning, Midnight," her first novel, has been translated into more than half a dozen languages, with a film adaptation in development.
Lake Oswego Reads events continue through February. The events are free and open to all. For a complete list of events, visit www.lakeoswegoreads.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: 12th annual Lake Oswego Reads, featuring Lily Brooks-Dalton's post-apocalyptic novel "Good Morning, Midnight"
WHEN: More than 30 events are scheduled throughout the month of February, including a Feb. 13 presentation by Brooks-Dalton in the Lake Oswego High School auditorium (2501 Country Club Road)
NOTE: Brooks-Dalton's presentation, which begins at 7 p.m., is free but requires a ticket. Those without tickets will be seated as space allows.
LEARN MORE: Find a complete schedule of events and other program details online at www.lakeoswegoreads.org.