Shoot the Moon

Written by Isa Arsén
Review by Kristen McDermott

The jacket copy accurately describes this timeslip novel as “affectingly achronological,” although fans of stories that combine romance and science fiction may find both elements in shorter supply than they’re used to. Instead, Arsén offers a moving meditation on the enduring nature of love in the face of inevitable loss.

NASA programmer Annie Fisk’s 1950s childhood in Santa Fe  is revealed to the reader in alternating interludes that also include her college affair with artist Evelyn in the early 1960s, and the love she discovers with fellow programmer Norm while working at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston between 1966 and 1969. A brilliant but emotionally reserved mathematician, Annie can be a frustrating point-of-view character because the childhood experiences that Arsén renders in such detail are not accessible to her – the traumatic death of her father, a scientist at the Los Alamos Trinity nuclear project, has erased almost all Annie’s memories of her life before that event. With patience, however, the pieces come together for both Annie and the reader, as she stumbles on an unlikely but awe-inspiring anomaly in space and time.

The actual science of the astounding discovery that Annie makes is only vaguely sketched, so many of the plot points seem a bit convenient and coincidental. Her emotional inner life, however, is believable and moving, and Arsén offers a particularly vivid sense of the landscape and culture of Texas and New Mexico in the middle of the 20th century. Because this book ticks so many boxes – history, fantasy, and LGBTQ+ romance – it is likely to find as wide and devoted a readership as the recent and successful Lessons in Chemistry.