Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: The Wives of Los Alamos

The Wives of Los Alamos

by TaraShea Nesbitt

From NetGalley: Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago—and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with P.O. box addresses in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together—adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. 

And while the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn’t say out loud, the letters they couldn’t send home, the freedom they didn’t have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

The Wives of Los Alamos is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history. It's a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: February 25, 2014


Kat's Review

This book is a fascinating look at one of the lesser explored sides of the war effort in the United States during WWII: the wives of the scientists who built the bomb. It shows how something so extraordinary was turned into something ordinary by the women charged with ensuring that life as usual went on, even in the midst of the most unusual circumstances. 

The book is written in the first person plural, in an attempt to encompass the stories of more than one single narrator, who would never be able to represent every experience. Instead, sentences are written in a similar style to the following: "We all felt tired, or some of us did, or none at all..." At first I thought it would be a temporary style choice, and then the true narrative would start, but instead it continued throughout the novel. This will either infuriate you or you'll get over it and enjoy the rest of the book.

I was frustrated by the style at first, but once I moved past it, I found this to be a fascinating read. It's not tense and dramatic, but rather a glimpse inside the private lives of the families who gave up everything, including visiting their families, to live in the desert while their husbands work on their "secret" project. The ups and downs of everyday life were juxtaposed with the extraordinary experiences of these families moving to a community built solely for their benefit, in a location not of their choosing, under the most secret of circumstances. 

Kat's Rating: A Good Read

I almost rated this All Consuming, but since I had to struggle to get past the voice at first, and sometimes it annoyed me throughout the book, I can't. Interestingly, I don't think the choice to encompass a plural voice was necessarily a poor one, just distracting at times. Still, I think this is a unique story, told skillfully. 

I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review. 

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