The Wives of Los Alamos

The Wives of Los Alamos

A Novel

eBook - 2014
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"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.The Wives of Los Alamos is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history. It's a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2014.
Edition: First U.S. Edition.
ISBN: 9781620405055
1620405059
Characteristics: 1 online resource.
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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m
miaone
Dec 13, 2016

Way too general. Makes women look like empty-headed nitwits.

j
Jvalverde
Apr 11, 2016

The last part of the book where the wives reflected upon the implications of the atomic bomb was the best.

s
scotluvr
Apr 06, 2016

I thought I would not like the community voice style that this author used. But found myself caught up in the descriptions of the lives the these women and their families, and found it very moving.

s
szarnstorff
May 25, 2015

I want to know more about the wives of Los Alamos. so interesting.

k
kw0724
Jan 26, 2015

I enjoyed learning about this time and place, but did not care for the list format, which I found hard to follow at times and less enjoyable than a traditional fictional story format.

madison382 Oct 12, 2014

The writer did an excellent job with this book. Very thought provoking.

ontherideau Sep 02, 2014

Chilling on many levels but it's a story we should know

StratfordLibrary Jul 29, 2014

Loved this book for so many reasons. Firstly, it is fiction but it isn’t – the wives of Los Alamos did exist and it was there in New Mexico where specialized scientists gathered from across America to work on a war time project in the 1940s. I always appreciate a novel that entertains while at the same time shares truths with the reader and offers a learning experience. Secondly, the voice of the narrator is unique to most literature yet inclusive in regard to the community Nesbit is writing about. She often uses ‘they’, ‘we’ or shares vignettes from multiple households to demonstrate a sense of sameness but also of subtle differences between the families that are essentially ‘locked down’ in the secret city. Thirdly, it is flat out suspenseful. What in the world are all these scientists doing all day? I didn’t know anything about this part of history so I truly had no idea what fate lay ahead for Los Alamos and the many inhabitants I had gotten to know so well. Lastly, it sparked debate. At the end. You’ll see, if you give it a read.

LaughingOne Jul 24, 2014

When I was six (1955) my family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Los Alamos was still the secret city, but not as secret as during the time of this novel. In the mid 1940s scientists were hand-picked to move to the secret city to work on a secret project. This novel is listed as historical fiction in the library but I think it is also creative nonfiction, for the women portrayed are real, or are compilations of the very real women who followed their husbands, and took their children, to live in this secret place and time for two, three, four years. I found the writing itself terse and impersonal, yet packed with details and information about “every wife”. I got bogged down in the everyday life, the sameness, the loneliness, the inability to connect with the loved ones left behind in the towns and cities these women had left. I loved the descriptions of the land itself; they reminded me of my childhood, of places I grew up in and around, places that meant home to me, even though it didn’t mean home to these wives. Once I got used to the sparse writing style, I liked gathering up the little stories and seeing the bigger picture. I also liked how the story followed women after the bombings of Japan, after the scientists and families were allowed to leave, or stay, and some ideas of what they and their children did later on.
In one of the later sections of this book there was a reference to a woman who lived outside Los Alamos, whom some of the wives managed to visit. This part reminded me of a novel I read in university – “The Woman at Otowi Crossing” (1965) by Frank Waters. I highly recommend this novel for those who want to read a more personalized story about living near Los Alamos during the height of its wartime activities, and the woman who was friends with people in the nearby pueblos and with some of the scientists and people of Los Alamos.

Cdnbookworm May 12, 2014

This novel has a very different structure. Nesbit did a fair bit of research on Los Alamos and the women who lived there with their scientist husbands, and came up with an approach that spoke to all the women, spoke from a first person point of view, but in a group sense, and felt very personal.
Each chapter has a different theme, and is made up of short paragraphs around that theme. Within each paragraph, the voice offers different experiences in the same vein, some of them opposite to each other. These speak both to the range of backgrounds of the women, as well as the commonalities.
Living in this small community, forced to interact with each other, with only a partial understanding of what their husbands were working on, very limited access to the outside world, and assigned housing with undependable utilities, these women were creative, feisty, and good sports.
I could barely put this book down, it did such a good job of pulling me into the experience of Los Alamos.
Here are a few examples to give you a taste of the way this book is written.
From the chapter "West":
We lied and told our children we were packing because we would be spending August with their grandparents in Denver or Duluth. Or we said we did not know where we were going, which was the truth, but our children, who did not trust that adults went places without knowing where they were going, thought we were lying. Or we told them it was an adventure and they would find out when we got there.
and from the chapter "Land":
In that first week we were invited to learn how to run our clothes through the hand-cranked mangle at the community laundry. Before this, we had other people do our laundry, or we had electric wringers, and for many of us our memories of those hand-powered water extractors were of the heavy crank and our mother's warnings not to get our hair caught in it. We were still wearing high heels and they stuck in the mud and we pretended that we learned what we were taught about the mangle but instead gathered our husband's shirts in a wet bundle and carried them home, smiling sourly. We hung the clothes on the line and ironed the cotton shirts on our kitchen table. Because our clothesline was erected in one of the only spots on the mesa that was not in direct sunlight, in the morning we brought our children's cloth diapers and our husband's boxer shorts in as square little ice boards.
and from the chapter "Talk":
We were a group of people connecting both honestly and dishonestly, appearing composed at dusk and bedraggled at daybreak, committed, whether we wanted it or not, to shared conditions of need, agitation, and sometimes joy, which is to say: we were a community.
There is just something about this writing that takes the individual and group experiences of these women and makes them come alive for me. I feel their frustration, their loneliness, their anger. It opened my eyes to another historical experience, one that could never happen now due to the advances in communication, and makes you feel what it might have been like.

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CoastalCruiser
Jun 07, 2015

CoastalCruiser thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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