The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea NesbitThe Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on 2014-02-25
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
Buy from IndieBound

While the rest of the country prepared itself for war, women from across the United States and the world gathered their families, belongings and willingness to adapt in order to support their husbands in New Mexico. For years, these women were living under a shroud of mystery, slowly building a community among strangers, sharing little but their common bond of life behind an unknown bomb. 

The Wives of Los Alamos is filled with a chorus of we. There is no I or me, no protagonist. Though the extended use of first person plural feels like it’s breaking literary rules at first, it soon begins to make sense as a form for representing a group so cut off and secluded from society that they nearly become one. Together, they navigate the world of the foreign desert, adapting to life in a closed community and, eventually, one another.

“Our attire took on the drab camouflage of the surroundings; the beige and muted tones of the desert became our wardrobe – and we could see how this attire appeared to an outsider, to the newly arrived. There was the sunlight’s skill at color and though we were subtle, though we often blended into the background, we left our red lips on one another’s coffee cups and highball glasses.”

As the novel unfolds, the magic in Nesbit’s technique becomes clear: hidden within the collective narrative are individual stories that highlight unique experiences. They were working as mail carriers or switch board operators, sobbing under the hum of the vacuum, leaving the hospital with an apology instead of a child. Debut novelist TaraShea Nesbit has set aside convention in favor of a refreshing style that brings The Wives of Los Alamos to life in an unexpected, incredibly believable way. 

  • Jess – A Book Hoarder

    So this is going to sound really weird but I just read Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume and it is set in Los Alamos and this totally brings me back to that book in a way that makes me want to read it. Plus, I’m intrigued by the narrative.

    • I totally get that, I sometimes want to read books on the same topic from different people. The narrative is really different and once you settle into it, I think it’s really refreshing to read something you don’t see so often.

  • There was another book that employed the “we”. The Buddha in the Attic maybe? I love the idea of this device, and I’m totally down to read this one.

  • I’m not sure how I feel about all these books about wives of famous people or groups of famous people that are coming out lately. I think it’s a good thing, because so many books focus on the men and ignore what the women are doing. It’s a gap that needs to be filled! At the same time, the titles all seem to suggest that these women are only important because of who they’re married to, which gets under my skin a little bit.

    • What’s interesting about this book is that there’s not really any names mentioned at all, so you don’t know who they’re married to. Obviously, they were married to men who were attached to the Manhattan Project in some way, but their husband’s ranks were pretty wide ranging.

  • I’ve always been fascinated by the Manhattan Project and this book looks like it takes an interesting new perspective on it. It kind of reminds me of The Astronaut Wives Club that came out last year. Though I have to agree with Doing Dewey, I’m kind of getting tired of all these books about the wives of famous men. I think it is kind of a failed attempted at some feminist project of reclaiming women’s history.

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