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Year of the Comets

As in her previous book, Wind, DeBlieu uses forces of nature to illuminate the human condition. Here she brackets the harrowing story of her husband's severe depression with the appearances of the comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp; in between these astronomical events, she reflects on the chaos and order of the cosmos by weaving a well-paced history of stargazing.

But it is the inner universe that dominates: "Demons of the mind: they dwell at the core of this account, alongside the lighted angels that perch in the heavens." And while many amateur astronomers have told their stories, few have had to raise a toddler and deal with a withdrawn and angry husband at the same time, so when DeBlieu goes outside and lies flat on the asphalt to examine the stars, one wonders if she wouldn't rather just stay there for a while. But eventually life begins to improve. "It's the same whether you're searching for personal truths or scientific fact," DeBlieu observes. "Something happens, some sequence of events that elicits a flash of understanding." Seeing significance in the arrival and departure of comets is not unusual, but DeBlieu finds more than portents of doom; instead, grief and longing are tempered by the hope that things might look up again some night. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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