Let’s hear a round of applause for our girl, Sarah 👏🏼
Women’s Fiction/FemLit is not my normal “cup of tea,” and after reading Ground Control, I see where perhaps this is in error. I was enticed by the Sci-Fi vibes of a voyage to Mars, but as with most books in the Lights Out Ink catalogue, this genre-blending work has introduced me to something unexpected.
Ground Control delivers a message well understood by anyone who has sacrificed in order to support a loved one’s dreams. Though our globe-trotting protagonist originally heralds from Canada, Sarah’s plight resonates as an oft-heard conversation among my girlfriends in the southern US, and I imagine hits a note for academic, military, and fame bound “sidekicks,” as well. Who is she outside of her spouse?
Uncertain of her goals and content to follow her husband, Grant’s, career, Sarah Harper has incidentally settled into the role of trailing wife and mother with ease. She understands and clings to her “systems,” compartmentalizing (with extreme prejudice) any actions she takes that fall outside her defined scope (this is me avoiding spoilers!). When Grant’s biology career offers the once in a lifetime opportunity to lead the lab on a shuttle to Mars, he barely hesitates. Sarah, on the other hand, really struggles with the decision to leave everyone she has ever loved behind again, and for good this time.
Less science fiction and more science future, the story takes a very fresh character and relationship centered approach to an otherwise explored “adventure” tale. Sarah is not your typical hero, nor does the idea of being a pioneer even particularly appeal to her. Through Sarah’s eyes, we feel both her aimlessness and understand what’s important to her: the story often languishes on details of her children’s lives (I found it delightful that they were such developed characters, rather than props), hobbies that seem less to enrich her time than to fill it, and most importantly, her strong relationships with other women. The depictions of female friendship throughout this novel abandon the caricature hallmarks of jealousy and cattiness, instead opting for supportive, encouraging bonds. Like a hot cup of tea in a favorite stoneware mug, these true-to-life experiences were a real treat.
In fact, author K.A. Hough’s wielding of relationships is the highlight of this novel. We learn everyone through Sarah’s experience–from Grant’s distracted brilliance (which sometimes flirts with negligence), to her closest friends’ sugar-coated advice, we understand Sarah’s blindspots by what she chooses to see and hear.
Though take-off doesn’t occur until the mid-point, the seeds thoroughly planted by Hough mean that we really know Sarah before she embarks on her journey to the stars. And boy, does the story take off! Grounded in realistic science and absent any cliche desire to add excessive dramatic flair, Murphy’s Law alone sends Sarah on the adventure of a lifetime. Everything is tested, and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that the tension and dread Hough stokes kept me itching to discover where exactly this journey would lead until the very last page.
Highly recommended for fans of either Women’s or Science Fiction genres looking to “expand their horizons!”
Fine Print: I received an ARC reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Ground Control is published by Lights Out Ink, the same house that published Wild Things Will Roam, which is why I chose to read a title outside my comfort zone but did not affect my opinion of the work.