The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Renowned MIT astrophysicist (and fellow Concordian) Sara Seager has spent her career searching for alien life - exoplanets that will sustain life, not as we know it here on Earth, but life nonetheless. After she is widowed in her early 40s, love for her two young boys is the impetus to find her way back to sustaining her own life in this 'new normal.'

THE SMALLEST LIGHTS IN THE UNIVERSE is marvelous twining of these two threads. Seager makes the science accessible and interesting for a lay person, and bares the emotions of her widowhood, pulling the reader into her journey. Her story is both intensely personal and universal in its portrayal of the anger and disorientation that often follows the devastating loss of a loved one.

This memoir is a page-turning read, as Sara Seager finds her North Star deep inside herself, in a group of other young widows in town, and in a new life partner. Highly recommended. p.s. Science is real!

— Dawn


LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER • An MIT astrophysicist reinvents herself in the wake of tragedy and discovers the power of connection on this planet, even as she searches our galaxy for another Earth, in this “bewitching” (Anthony Doerr, The New York Times Book Review) memoir.

“Sara Seager’s exploration of outer and inner space makes for a stunningly original memoir.”—Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

Sara Seager has always been in love with the stars: so many lights in the sky, so much possibility. Now a pioneering planetary scientist, she searches for exoplanets—especially that distant, elusive world that sustains life. But with the unexpected death of Seager’s husband, the purpose of her own life becomes hard for her to see. Suddenly, at forty, she is a widow and the single mother of two young boys. For the first time, she feels alone in the universe.

As she struggles to navigate her life after loss, Seager takes solace in the alien beauty of exoplanets and the technical challenges of exploration. At the same time, she discovers earthbound connections that feel every bit as wondrous, when strangers and loved ones alike reach out to her across the space of her grief. Among them are the Widows of Concord, a group of women offering advice on everything from home maintenance to dating, and her beloved sons, Max and Alex. Most unexpected of all, there is another kind of one-in-a-billion match, not in the stars but here at home.

Probing and invigoratingly honest, The Smallest Lights in the Universe is its own kind of light in the dark.

About the Author

Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and a professor of physics and planetary science at MIT. Her research, which earned her a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant, has introduced many foundational ideas to the field of exoplanets, and she led NASA’s Probe-class study team for the Starshade project. She is now at the forefront of the search for the first Earth-like exoplanets and signs of life on them. She lives with her family in Concord, Massachusetts.

Praise For…

“It is the easiest thing in the world to resign yourself to what is, to curl around yourself and your circumstances. This is a book filled with hope and wonder, because falling in love after loss is a defiant act of optimism, much like searching the stars for life beyond our own little planet. You’ll leave this book feeling possibility and inevitability, comforted by the knowledge that even in the dark, we are not alone.”—Nora McInerny Purmort, author of It’s Okay to Laugh 

“Sara Seager’s exploration of outer and inner space makes for a stunningly original memoir. Far from being dwarfed by the scale of exoplanets and galaxies, her most human tale of love, loss, and redemption is illuminated and given meaning by this backdrop. . . . A beautiful and compelling read.”—Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

“I absolutely loved this book. It presents both cutting-edge science and the deeply human side of a MacArthur award–winning woman astrophysicist. While searching for other planets in the universe, she grieves for her husband who died of cancer.”—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain

“The miracle of this breathtaking book is the way Sara Seager’s search for life in the universe mirrors her search for a fitting life here on earth. Who knew that so much love and beauty and hope could come from so much confusion and fear and grief? Who knew that the macrocosm and the microcosm could end up being the very same thing?”—Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations

“Seager’s beautifully written memoir strikes the perfect balance, weaving a richly told personal story with a clear and accessible tale of the birth and development of a new kind of astronomy—the search for other worlds like our own.”—Katie Mack, author of The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

“A singular scientist has written a singular account of her life and work.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This thoughtful and affecting memoir of navigating life after loss reads like a comforting novel, inspiring others to follow their dreams and never give up on the possibilities of discovery and self-reflection.” Library Journal (starred review)

“This wondrous tale of discovery, loss, and love is both expansive and intimate.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9780525576266
ISBN-10: 0525576266
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021
Pages: 336
Language: English