The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill

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The Movement of Stars
400 pages; Riverhead
Read three sentences of Amy Brill's gorgeous The Movement of Stars and you're swiftly transported to the lantern-lit past of 1840s Quaker Nantucket. Twenty-four-year-old Hannah Price is a woman on a mission—ostensibly to discover a comet ("wanderers," as they are known in her world) but also to find a place for herself as a respected contributor in the field of astronomy. Then she meets Isaac Martin, a black whaler from the distant Azores islands, who wants to learn navigation from her, only to end up teaching her that "the future, shining, is calling our attention." When their lessons evolve into moonlit strolls on the beach, Hannah's repressive religious community takes notice, forcing her to reassess what she knows about her family and home, and to tackle the question of who gets to decide her spiritual beliefs. This book sings with insights about love, work and how we create our own families. (Hannah asks her new sister-in-law, "Is this going to require a show of sentiment or some sort of feminine ritual? I'm afraid I'll be a total failure at either.") And despite the richness of historical and astronomical detail, ultimately this is a story about the question pulsing through every woman alive, brilliant scientist or not: How do you make a contribution to the world without "forsaking feeling for fact?"
— Amy Shearn