The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele is yet another post-apocalyptic story. Instead of cannibalistic raiders and a dog-eat-dog world, the world in which Carson and Beatrix find themselves is the exact opposite. Reading this at the end of 2020 where it feels like we currently live in a dog-eat-dog world, this is exactly the message to read.
What is eerie about The Lightest Object in the Universe is just how the modern world ends. A debt crisis that no one can overcome. Rising fuel costs. Inflation the type usually seen in third-world countries. Natural disasters. And a global flu pandemic that “came on like a cold but burned up its victims with fever and drowned their lungs.” As I said, eerie given that Ms. Eisele wrote this well before the world first heard about COVID-19.
While most cross-country journeys that occur in post-apocalyptic stories are full of danger and violence, Carson’s journey is almost peaceful. He meets enough people on the road willing to share their food with him in order to keep him from starving. He finds the necessary supplies to keep him healthy, for the most part, as well as shelter and respite when needed. It is a journey where you never fear for his life.
Meanwhile, Beatrix’s establishing of a new type of community in her neighborhood is similarly anticlimactic. Sure, there are gangs that pop up and threaten violence, but her small band of community leaders finds ways to overcome them with minimum issues. Sure, there are problems, but Beatrix finds a way to overcome them with help from her friends.
So, Carson’s and Beatrix’s post-apocalyptic experiences are a lot less traumatic than most authors would have you believe, which is a nice change. After this year in which you question whether the country will ever reunite into some semblance of cohesion, The Lightest Object in the Universe makes you believe that there is hope for humanity and that not everyone is a complete d-bag. Then again, after 2020, you do wonder if Ms. Eisele is a bit too naive in her worldview. It all depends on where your mind and heart are as you read it.