How seeing Earth through the eyes of an astronaut brings new wonder and meaning to life on our planet.
One stifling summer night, the poet and journalist Marjolijn van Heemstra lay awake, unable to sleep—like so many of us feeling anxious and alienated, deeply exhausted yet restless. Amid the suffocating stream of daily obligations, the clamor of notifications and increasingly dismal headlines, she longed for a way to rise above the frenzy, for a renewed sense of meaning and connection. Then she learned about the overview effect—a permanent shift in consciousness many astronauts experience when beholding Earth from outside the atmosphere—and wondered: could the perspective of outer space offer the internal space she sought?
The lyrical account of van Heemstra’s yearlong quest to experience the overview effect on Earth, In Light-Years There’s No Hurry invites us to lift our gaze above eye level and discover our connections with the cosmos, our planet, and each other. We follow as van Heemstra’s cosmic awareness expands and she finds herself feeling simultaneously lighter and more grounded. Compared with the complexity of the universe, daily life on Earth begins to seem more manageable, while understanding the improbability of our collective existence gives her new patience and tenderness for her neighbors. The grand rhythms of light-years and eons become a source of restoration and relief—a comforting, necessary reminder to slow down and zoom out.
Contemplating the solace a cosmic perspective offers in our chaotic, divided world, In Light-Years There’s No Hurry is a moving meditation on what it is to be human amid the vastness of the universe.
About the Author
Marjolijn van Heemstra is a poet, novelist, playwright, and space reporter for the Dutch news organization De Correspondent. The award-winning author of three collections of poetry and a novel, van Heemstra lives in Amsterdam.
In the midst of an anxiety spiral at the dire state of the world—the politics, the climate, the existential threats facing humanity—In Light-Years There’s No Hurry felt like a balm . . . [a] poetic exploration of zooming out.
— Rachel Cunliffe - New Statesman
A charming, challenging book. . . . The gentle activism of [van Heemstra’s] own life—gathering with neighbours in parks at night, feeling cosmological connection beyond the city’s glare—threads humanely through the book. — Pat Kane - New Scientist
This starstruck enquiry into the grand universe around us will leave you both humbled and awed. — Katherine May, New York Times best-selling author of Wintering and Enchantment
A lovely, lyrical book about the search for signs of life in these perilous times. Van Heemstra gracefully illuminates the difficulties and delights of connection in our increasingly chaotic world. — Jenny Offill, author of Weather and Dept. of Speculation
Beautifully written and deeply contemplative . . . In Light-Years There’s No Hurry offers a surprising connection between space science and the human spirit.
— Alan Lightman, author of Probable Impossibilities and Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine
Informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring…This book will renew your faith in living with kindness, seeking interconnection, and loving—and protecting—the wonders of this world we are so lucky to know. — Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night
Marjolijn van Heemstra’s radiant intellect makes the cold, dark cosmos feel like a warm, well-lit place. Somehow, she has written a book on the emptiness of space that is suffused with a rich sense of humanity. — Marcia Bjornerud, author of Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World
Throughout this brief yet paradigm-shifting book, the author guides readers through poignant vignettes and interviews with leading thinkers in the science of space . . . A striking text that takes us beyond our planet for a fresh perspective. — Kirkus Reviews
Delightful . . . [Van Heemstra’s] curious, investigative spirit and lyrical prose enchants. Fans of Rebecca Solnit, take note. — Publishers Weekly