The Wives of Los Alamos - TaraShea Nesbit

The Wives of Los Alamos


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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.

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