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The Wives of Los Alamos

by

The Wives of Los Alamos Cover

ISBN13: 9781620405031
ISBN10: 1620405032
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

“In this fascinating and artful debut, TaraShea Nesbit gives voice to the women closest to one of gravest and most telling moments in our collective history: the development and testing of the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Tender and mundane details of marriage and domesticity quietly collide with the covert and solemn work at hand. With chilling implications and charged, sure-footed prose, this is a novel — and writer — of consequence.” Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

Review:

"The author's writing — by turns touching, confiding, and matter-of-fact — perfectly captures the commonalities of the hive mind while also emphasizing the little things that make each wife dissimilar from the pack. This effect intensifies once the nature of the Los Alamos project is revealed and the men and their families grapple with the burden of their new creation. Engrossing, dense, and believable.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

Review:

“Astounding....The wives emerge with strong, individual personalities, and the reader feels immersed in a very real world....Nesbit brings alive questions of war and power that dog us to this day.” Booklist, starred review

Review:

“This well-researched and fast-paced novel gives a panoramic view of the lives of ordinary women whose husbands worked on the atomic bomb during World War II. Recommended both for its important subject matter and for the author's vivid storytelling.” Library Journal

Review:

"Hypnotic and filled with elegaic details; Nesbit offers fascinating and disturbing insight into the secret life of the Los Alamos families." Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles

Review:

“I am in awe of this novel. TaraShea Nesbit's brave and brilliant choice of point of view for these women living inside their earth-shattering secret crucible brings home to us in the fullest way possible that our personal story is never just ours. The Wives of Los Alamos will be read and re-read and remembered.” Gail Godwin, author of Flora

Synopsis:

A bold and emotionally charged debut novel told in the collective voices of the wives of the men who created the atom bomb.

About the Author

TaraShea Nesbit's prose, poetry, and criticism have been featured in The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, Hayden's Ferry Review and other literary journals. She teaches creative writing and literature courses at the University of Denver and the University of Washington in Tacoma, facilitates writing groups at The Gathering Place--a day shelter for women, children, and transgender individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness--and is the nonfiction editor for Better: Culture & Lit. A graduate of the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis, TaraShea is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Denver, where she is a Presidential Fellow.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

folkrrt, May 7, 2014 (view all comments by folkrrt)
Here is an honest everyday behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the women of Los Alamos during WWII. Although a work of historical fiction the reader can easily imagine the challenges of the wives and their struggle to make sense of everything around them, whether it be the isolated environment or the mysterious secrecy of the project. The voice of the novel is first person plural which makes the reading both challenging and engaging.
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Melinda Ott, February 26, 2014 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
This was book was not what I expected....not that that was a bad thing. I think, upon reading the summary, I expected something soapy along the lines of TV's Army Wives. Instead, I get an interesting retelling of a chapter of history about which I know very little.

This book is written from what I think is a plural first-person point of view. It is as if all the wives were speaking as one and the pronoun most used was not "I" but "we." Admittedly, this could be off-putting to some readers. I, however, found the point of view to be an interesting and integral part of the book. Instead of focusing on one or two individual experiences, Nesbit is able to write a more collective narrative with I felt gave more depth to the story.

I enjoyed reading about the lives of these women--in one sense, it reminded of what my mom has told me about living on military bases as a young woman. In another sense, it almost seemed like these women had tripped into the Twilight Zone. They couldn't visit family or even tell relatives where they were, they needed a military escort to leave Los Alamos, and in most cases they could not even know what kind of work their husbands were doing.

While I found this book fascinating, about 2/3 of the way through I started to really miss any form of a plot. The arc of this book is that the families arrive, they live here, the war ends, they have to readjust to their "normal" lives after the war. Honestly, this isn't enough to sustain an entire novel. I wish there had been a bit more of a story in this book.

All in all, it was an interesting book--and one I might recommend. I just wish there was more to it.
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The Lost Entwife, November 13, 2013 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit is one of the most interesting reads of the year for me. Nesbit uses a distinct, unusual writing style to capture the community of women who, as a whole, were uprooted from their homes and lives and moved to the desert to live in a community that thrives on secrets and gossip. The story in this book is set during WWII and examines the lives of the academics who, for whatever physical reason, did not qualify to enlist and instead were used for their brainpower to develop a secret project after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

I want to talk a bit about the story, but first I need to talk about the narrative style of the book. Nesbit boldly chose to write in first person collective; i.e. the "we" and "us" replacing the "I." It's strange, at first, because some of the actions taken by the husband can lead the reader into thinking that there are multiple wives per husband, but once the story starts moving, the writing style fades into the background just enough for it to actually start to make sense.

Nesbit is trying to tell the story of a large group of women in The Wives of Los Alamos. She casts a wide net, attempting to do a broad survey, rather than an intimate look at only a few select women. The group was so diverse that it would have been impossible to see the bigger picture without focusing on the little things in any other style. I really appreciated her decision to use the first person collective because I walked away from the book thinking about the community and what it would have felt like to live in Los Alamos, to deal with the secretive nature of their husbands jobs, to struggle with lack of water, lack of food, lack of comforts.

The other effect that the style has on the book is it removes the reader from the characters. It's like we are given a large picture with moving people on it and it's not important to know names or exact jobs because what we are studying is how the community worked and admiring the diverse nature of those who were brought together. And then, there's the purpose of why they are there. I think you would have a general idea from reading the summary and thinking about the timeline of WWII. I know I did. It came as no surprise when the reveal happened about what was going on in Los Alamos - but what did come as a surprise was how it was all revealed.

I really recommend The Wives of Los Alamos. There's been some criticism about the writing style and how hard it is to read, or how various readers' attention wandered, but it's worth it to stick through and read to the end. Soon, it becomes a sort of rhythm and that's when the book really starts to blossom. Give it a chance and I bet you will walk away with the same appreciation that I did.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781620405031
Author:
Nesbit, TaraShea
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20140225
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.25197 x 5.51181 in 1 lb

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The Wives of Los Alamos New Hardcover
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Product details 240 pages Bloomsbury USA - English 9781620405031 Reviews:
"Review" by , “In this fascinating and artful debut, TaraShea Nesbit gives voice to the women closest to one of gravest and most telling moments in our collective history: the development and testing of the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Tender and mundane details of marriage and domesticity quietly collide with the covert and solemn work at hand. With chilling implications and charged, sure-footed prose, this is a novel — and writer — of consequence.”
"Review" by , "The author's writing — by turns touching, confiding, and matter-of-fact — perfectly captures the commonalities of the hive mind while also emphasizing the little things that make each wife dissimilar from the pack. This effect intensifies once the nature of the Los Alamos project is revealed and the men and their families grapple with the burden of their new creation. Engrossing, dense, and believable.”
"Review" by , “Astounding....The wives emerge with strong, individual personalities, and the reader feels immersed in a very real world....Nesbit brings alive questions of war and power that dog us to this day.”
"Review" by , “This well-researched and fast-paced novel gives a panoramic view of the lives of ordinary women whose husbands worked on the atomic bomb during World War II. Recommended both for its important subject matter and for the author's vivid storytelling.”
"Review" by , "Hypnotic and filled with elegaic details; Nesbit offers fascinating and disturbing insight into the secret life of the Los Alamos families."
"Review" by , “I am in awe of this novel. TaraShea Nesbit's brave and brilliant choice of point of view for these women living inside their earth-shattering secret crucible brings home to us in the fullest way possible that our personal story is never just ours. The Wives of Los Alamos will be read and re-read and remembered.”
"Synopsis" by ,
A bold and emotionally charged debut novel told in the collective voices of the wives of the men who created the atom bomb.
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