Told in the collective voices of the wives of the men who created the atom bomb, this is the bold and emotionally charged story of the women of Los Alamos
Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkley, 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 a P.O. Box for an address, in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of 'the project' that didn't exist as far as the greater world was concerned. They were constrained by the words they couldn't say out loud, the letters they couldn't send home, the freedom they didn't have.
Though they were strangers, they joined together - adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, and to an existence fluctuating between the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. And while the bomb was being created, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from the site of an abandoned school into a real community. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the men and women of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution towards developing the most destructive force in the history of mankind.
The Wives of Los Alamos is a window into one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history, and is a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos and moral confusion of war.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
When the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project were shipped out to the desert, their wives went too. Not knowing what was awaiting them and unable to tell their families where they were going or how long for. When they got there, their homes were not ready, nothing worked and they had no resources except each other. Nesbit makes the bold move of narrating the story in the first person plural - we - presenting the women as a group, and then fracturing the ensemble off with individual anecdotes about one woman's baby, another's infidelity... It's a brilliant stroke and despite my initial doubts about how long she could sustain this voice for, it works, suggesting the solidarity of the disparate women marooned in the desert, constrained by secrecy, united in their isolation and evoking the norms of the Cold War era of convention and propriety. A really imaginative treatment of women who have previously been invisible to history, animated with sympathy and insight.
About the Author
TaraShea Nesbit teaches creative writing and literature courses at the University of Denver and the University of Washington in Tacoma. A graduate of the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis, TaraShea is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Denver, where she is a Presidential Fellow.
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 Hypnotic and filled with elegiac details; Nesbit offers fascinating and disturbing insight into the secret life of the Los Alamos families Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles 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 A debut novel that manages to be both intimate and detached and is all the more compelling for that **** RTE Guide The story is told by all of the women - not queued up as an oral history , but together in unison as one haunting, communal voice . In the hands of a less certain writer, the narrative style might become grating, but Nesbit pulls it off with impressive control. Lulled by the voice, we know that offstage the historic work is being done . Because we already know the big story, the wives' tale - this diverse, incongruous ensemble - becomes that much more interesting New York Times An insight into the wives of men who worked on the nuclear Manhattan Project in the Forties Stylist Powering the novel is its narrative voice, a collective "we" that represents all the wives. This technique may feel initially distancing, but the rhythmic, hypnotic cadences build momentum to create a unique portrait of a rarely considered aspect of a particular historical moment Daily Mail There's no individual heroine of this terrific novel; Nesbit tells their collective story - and the details of their lives are fascinating ... Mesmerising The Times This is a story that will haunt you, as though the ghosts of the desert replayed the women's lives long after they had returned to their home towns with husbands, who were deeply marked by their achievement Irish Times Nesbit empathises with the scientists' wives and skilfully conveys their bleak predicament, which resembles that of any homemaker suffering from isolation. The book gains in dramatic intensity when the goings-on in the lab start to spill out Independent
Number Of Pages: 240
Published: 1st March 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 13.5 x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.38