‘Orbital’ Offers a God’s-Eye View of Our Fragile Home | Sojourners

‘Orbital’ Offers a God’s-Eye View of Our Fragile Home

Samantha Harvey’s new novel asks us to appreciate the paradox of our mighty and vulnerable planet.
The image shows the cover of the book "orbital" which has rainbow colored planet shaped orbs
Grove Press 

IN ONE OF her visions, the 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich saw all of creation in the palm of her hand. She observed that it was round as a ball and small as a hazelnut. “I marvelled how it might last,” she wrote, “for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little[ness].” In other words, she thought it might vanish for being so small.

This is the feeling that pervades Samantha Harvey’s lyrical novel Orbital, which follows six astronauts as they circle the Earth and conduct scientific research. Hailing from various countries, they experience together a God’s-eye view of the planet they left behind. Continents roll past, political borders disappear, and a sense of urgency emerges. In a way only astronauts can, they absorb the simultaneous vitality and fragility of their collective home and reckon with the human-caused calamities that threaten it.

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The image shows the cover of Sojourners' May 2024 issue, which depicts a priest with mushrooms growing out of their head
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