Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on 2014-02-25
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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.