Lucid Stars


From the 1996 National Book Award-winning author of Ship Fever and Other Stories. What begins as a classic boy-meets-girl tale in 1955 becomes something far different when marriage and two children do not bring a family closer together. Lucid Stars is the moving story of how one family learns to survive by becoming a planetary system that just happens to be missing its sun.
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From the 1996 National Book Award-winning author of Ship Fever and Other Stories. What begins as a classic boy-meets-girl tale in 1955 becomes something far different when marriage and two children do not bring a family closer together. Lucid Stars is the moving story of how one family learns to survive by becoming a planetary system that just happens to be missing its sun.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Delta Fiction's fine debut is marked by a quietly charming, seductive first novel whose author launches a career that promises to be as bright as the constellations that inform these pages. The dynamics of the modern broken home and the complex relationships engendered by divorce and remarriage are limned here with rare sensitivity and insight. The agile Barrett convincingly relates the story from the diverse perspectives of two mothers and two daughters. In her skilled hands, a 23-year time span is credible and the star motif never stales. Penny finds solace, self-affirmation and freedom in astronomy, and her strength and passion bolster her ex-husband Ben's second family, whom he eventually abandons for a third. Her daughter Cass, wounded and confused by her parents' divorce and her father's incapacity to love, knows that childhood is a cruel status: ``They're trapped in these small bodies, stuck in a land where the natives treat them as if they're deaf, blind, and crippled . . . . Her only refuge is that place inside her head where she retreats with her books and her projects.'' Although he links the other protagonists, the hypnotic Ben remains a deliberately vague character because he is a black hole``What goes into him goes in and is lost forever.'' Major ad/promo. (September)
Library Journal
Depicting two decades in the life of a Cape Cod family and the relationships that arise from its dissolution, this first novel is a moving exploration of the nature of family. The story focuses on the women and children in the orbit of Ben Day, playboy skier turned real estate developer. Ben's need for the reassurance of younger women wrecks havoc with those around him. It first ends his marriage to Penny, the independent woman with a passion for astronomy he meets at a New Hampshire resort, and later to Diane, his pretty but vapid secretary. For those hurt by Ben, healing comes in an unusual forma loose-knit ``family'' composed of his ex-wives and children as well as various relatives and lovers, a family that provides a love and acceptance not found with the emotionally destructive Ben. An impressive debut. Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
James Marcus
In her first novel, Andrea Barrett enlists the whole empyrean - Orion through Libra through Pegasus - to serve as a backdrop for and sad commentary on a dissolving family....Initially the prose in this sidereal drama suffers from a certain slackness, but as the novel gains momentum it deepens, and Ms. Barrett's language adeptly rises, or falls, to portray occasions of considerable unhappiness. She also possesses the gift of forgiving her characters more readily than they do one another - which is neither more nor less than they deserve. In doing so, she has made a spacious and sympathetic debut. -- New york Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440550006
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/15/1988
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Barrett
Andrea Barrett
A writer whose novels distill historical fact into historically accurate fiction, Andrea Barrett is as much renowned for her storytelling abilities as for her understanding of the history of science. In her books, the real and the fictitious intertwine, as famous scientists from history make appearances in her delightfully imagined and well-researched stories.


Andrea Barrett combines, as the critic Michiko Kakutani put it, "a naturalist's eye with a novelist's imagination." For the award-winning novelist and short-story writer, natural science, particularly nineteenth-century natural history, is a central preoccupation, and scientists and naturalists such as Linnaeus, Darwin, and Mendel frequently figure in her work. Barrett herself, however, gave up the study of science shortly after completing an undergraduate degree in biology. She entered a Ph.D. program in zoology but dropped out during the first semester.

Yet the way Barrett writes is, perhaps, her own brand of science; it involves long hours of research and the painstaking distillation of historical fact into historically accurate fiction. By her own admission, Barrett is an obsessive researcher: "Often for a story, I will do enough research to write a couple of novels, and for a novel I'll do enough research to have written an encyclopedia," she said in an interview in The Atlantic. But in the end, she adds, "fiction is about the characters, the image, the language, the poetry, the sound; it isn't about information. The information has to be distilled down to let us focus on what's really going on with the people."

Barrett didn't start writing fiction in earnest until her thirties, and she labored in comparative obscurity until 1996. Then, with four novels already behind her, she won the National Book Award for her first collection of short stories, Ship Fever. The collection explores the romantic and intellectual passions of a variety of historical and fictional characters, from an aging Linnaeus to a pair of contemporary marine biologists. In it, "science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material," said the Boston Globe.

The book's success launched Barrett into the literary limelight, where her reputation continued to grow. Her next book, The Voyage of the Narwhal, tells the story of a doomed scientific voyage to the Arctic in 1855. The writer Thomas Mallon called it "a brilliant reversal of Heart of Darkness: the danger is not that the characters will 'go native,' but that a lust for scientific knowledge and intellectual distinction will drive them to cruelties they would have been incapable of before."

Recently, Barrett's work has begun to feature recurring characters, some of them related to one another. In another collection of stories, Servants of the Map, several characters from Ship Fever reappear, as does the ship cook from The Voyage of the Narwhal. As Barrett follows the trajectory of their lives and relationships, it is increasingly apparent how attuned she is to the emotional lives, as well as the intellectual lives, of her characters. As Barry Unsworth wrote in The New York Times Book Review, Barrett captures "that blend of precision and appropriateness that has always characterized the best prose, an attentiveness to the truth of human feeling that is in itself a supremely civilized value."

Good To Know

When she isn't writing, Barrett plays African percussion with a group of musicians in Rochester, N.Y. The group includes her husband, the biologist Barry Goldstein.
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