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The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (Terrace Books)

One of the most important details of Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s latest novel, The Big Bang Symphony, is that it takes place in the bitterly cold and isolated world of Antarctica. The setting creates an instant sense of unease, curiosity and urgency. But this is not just a story about Antarctica. It’s a story about three women — Rosie, Mikala and Alice — all of whom are there for very different reasons.

The book opens as the Air Force plane carrying the women attempts to fly through a storm and is forced to crash-land on the ice. That dramatic event sets the tone for the rest of the book and sends each character on her own unique journey.

Free spirited Rosie is there for her third season as a galley cook. Though she is focused and determined to stay away from anything even remotely romantic, she soon begins an affair with a married photographer. Mikala, a young musician and composer, arrives as an artist-in-residence. She is grieving the death of her partner Sarah, and secretly studying a visiting astrophysicist whom she believes is the father she never met: "She thought she had spent her life protecting Sarah. But maybe it had been the other way around. With her life partner gone, she had to face not only her absence but the absence of her father."

And then there is Alice, a graduate student in geography who is as determined to break away from the shadow of her mother, as she is to prove herself professionally under the oppressive gaze of her advisor.

Bledsoe weaves a compelling narrative out of the three women’s lives, a narrative that explores the tension between art and science, love and resentment, grief and longing, and the needs of the individual versus the community. All of this is set against the dangerous, stark and beautiful background of Antarctica.

The Big Bang Symphony is Bledsoe’s fifth novel. She is also the author of the nonfiction book The Ice Cave: A Woman’s Adventures from the Mojave to the Antarctic.

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