The Actual Star - Monica Byrne

Join us in a Zoom conversation between Monica Byrne and Steve Prothero. Byrne's novel, The Actual Star was just released on Sept. 14th. They will be discussing the novel, writing, and anything else that comes up!

Register here!

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war.

The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over two millennia and six continents —telling three powerful tales a thousand years apart, all of them converging in the same cave in the Belizean jungle.

Braided together are the stories of a pair of teenage twins who ascend the throne of a Maya kingdom; a young American woman on a trip of self-discovery in Belize; and two dangerous charismatics vying for the leadership of a new religion and racing toward a confrontation that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.

In each era, a reincarnated trinity of souls navigates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, and love and hate—until all of their age-old questions about the nature of existence converge deep underground, where only in complete darkness can they truly see.

The Actual Star is a feast of ideas about where humanity came from, where we are now, and where we’re going—and how, in every age, the same forces that drive us apart also bind us together.


Monica Byrne grew up in Annville, Pennsylvania, as the youngest child of two theologians. She studied biochemistry at Wellesley, NASA, and MIT before pivoting to fiction and theatre. She is the author of the novel The Girl in the Road, winner of the 2015 Otherwise Award; as well as the plays Nightwork, What Every Girl Should Know, Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo, and Ohio!, which have been performed around the world. She also performed the first science-fictional TED talk in Vancouver. You can visit her online at and support her work at She is based in Durham, North Carolina, and loves a good thunderstorm.

Stephen Prothero is the C. Allyn and Elizabeth V. Russell Professor of Religion in America in the Department of Religion at Boston University. He is the author of numerous books including Religion Matters: An Introduction to the World’s Religions (W.W. Norton 2020), Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (HarperOne, 2016), God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter (HarperOne, 2010), and the New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t (HarperOne, 2007). His books have been published on five continents and translated into eight languages. He lives on Cape Cod, and he tweets @sprothero.

Event date: 
09/30/2021 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
The Actual Star: A Novel By Monica Byrne Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063002890
Availability: available for order
Published: Harper Voyager - September 14th, 2021