4th Estate will publish astronomer and planetary scientist Dr Sara Seager’s “highly original” grief memoir following a reported seven-figure deal in the US.
Publishing director Louise Haines at the HarperCollins imprint bought UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada to The Smallest Lights in the Universe by the Canadian-American physics expert, from Abner Stein on behalf of CAA.
The debut by the professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reportedly won a seven-figure advance in the US from Crown after a deal negotiated by Mollie Glick at Creative Artists Agency, according to Publishers Weekly. In October it was revealed as one of the hotly tipped books of Frankfurt Book Fair.
According to a 4th Estate spokesperson, Seager had built herself a fulfilling life with her husband and their two boys and became one of the world’s experts in explonets (a planet outside of our solar system that orbits a star), working on space telescopes to search for an earth-like planet and prove the existence of other life in the universe. However, the death of her husband when she turned 40 “changed everything…Her world had lost its principal source of gravity, and her Asperger’s meant that she struggled to cope with daily practicalities”.
The spokesperson said that “a chance meeting on a sledging hill in Concord [ Boston] introduced Sara to a support group of other young widows, teaching her that she wasn’t alone” and NASA later named her the leader of a project known as the Starshade, which explores the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Billed as featuring Seager’s “charmingly offbeat candour”, the memoir is billed as “both epic and intimate” and “a moving demonstration that our understanding of the cosmos and our understanding of love and loss are twin quests”.
Haines said: “I am thrilled we have bought this highly original memoir that combines Sara’s fascinating work at the cutting edge of what we know in astrophysics with her personal story of coping with grief. The proposal was completely riveting and so well told.”