Bright and Dangerous Objects, Anneliese Mackintosh: A Review
For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by outer space. Stars, planets, space exploration--all of it; and while I've never wanted to be an astronaut, I will read anything in this genre. This cover is beautiful and immediately caught my attention, and with an equally intriguing blurb, I was excited to dive in.
Solvig is a diver in the oil industry, spending months at a time submerged in a tight ship with mostly men. She loves her job, loves her boyfriend of three years, loves her life--but she can't help but wanting more. When she reads about a contest offering her the opportunity of a lifetime, Solvig must reach into her depths to figure out what she truly wants: to start a family or to *quite literally* reach for the stars, and apply for a position as one of the first settlers on Mars. I knew from Mackintosh's forward that this wouldn't be a space adventure, but rather the internal reflection that leads up to the most important decision of Solvig's life (so if you're looking for a high-octane adventure with mechanical failures in deep space or alien lifeforms, this might not be the book for you). However, Solvig's voice is engaging and her spirit is contagious. She's unapologetic in her choices and while she understands people will judge her for some of her more unconventional life choices, she's able to separate societal pressures from the pressure she puts on herself to find happiness. In doing so, she considers her choices from all angles: she uses logic, relies on rationality and calm reflection, yet she also embraces her emotions. She doesn't shy away from crying when she feels something deeply. Because of this, I found her incredibly relatable and authentic. I was moved to tears by her description of miscarriage (which, disclaimer, might be triggering for some, but is not done in the lens of a spectacle here, which I appreciated), her questioning whether you can feel like you've lost someone who was never born. I feel this will strike a chord with many readers, including myself, having two children, but miscarrying in between in almost exactly the same way, and I appreciated that Mackintosh doesn't shy away from the painful realities, the things we so often view as taboo and suffer alone. In sharing this moment, there was a connection, a universal truth, that really balanced not only Solvig's character arc, but the trajectory of her choices. What struck me most was her examination of womanhood. The separation of mother from lover, how the idea of being pregnant isn't a phobia as much as she has serious doubts and doesn't know if she'll ever be sure she's ready. How she loves her work and wants more. Is she too late to be a mother? Is she crazy for wanting to be a mother? Is she crazy to dream? To want something so much bigger than herself? To want it all? While we're not debating going to Mars forever in our daily lives, Solvig's debates about what it means to be a woman are questions we face every day. In her search for the Right Choice, she raises several intriguing points about sacrifice and desire, readiness and flexibility, attraction and deprivation. The dichotomies are beautiful and painful, and Mackintosh nails the inner turmoil that many women struggle with at the crux of this next step. Overall, Bright and Dangerous Objects is a beautiful, insightful, honest reflection on love and ambition. It's a story of a woman daring to dream. It's a story of truth, and oh, what a rarity that is nowadays. Huge thanks to Tin House and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.