Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: "The Wives of Los Alamos" by TaraShea Nesbit

The Wives of Los Alamos TaraShea Nesbit
Published: February 25, 2014
ISBN: 1620405032
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for readers who are willing to take on a different style of narrative

Summary:
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.

My thoughts:
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.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.


The Wives of Los Alamos
by TaraShea Nesbit
Powells.com

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