The Calculating Stars (Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut duology) by Mary Robinette Kowal

“Kowal’s outstanding prequel to her Hugo-winning novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” shows the alternate history that created a mid-20th-century Mars colony. In 1952, mathematician and pilot Elma York is on vacation with her rocket scientist husband, Nathaniel, when a meteor strikes Chesapeake Bay, obliterating most of the East Coast. Elma quickly realizes that this is an extinction event, and that the only option for humanity’s survival is off-world colonization. In a compelling parallel to our own history, Elma, who is Jewish, fights to have women of all races and backgrounds included in the burgeoning space program, squaring off against patriarchal attitudes, her own anxiety, and an adversary from her past service as a war pilot. Kowal explores a wide range of issues-including religion, grief, survivor’s guilt, mental health, racism, misogyny, and globalism-without sermonising or subsuming the characters and plot. Elma’s struggles with her own prejudices and relationships, including her relationship with herself, provide a captivating human center to the apocalyptic background. Readers will thrill to the story of this “lady astronaut” and eagerly anticipate the promised sequels.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review