Audio Review: The Wives of Los Alamos

April 1, 2014 1940's, Atomic bomb, audible, audiobook, book review, historical fiction, TaraShea Nesbit, WWII 3

Written By: TaraShea Nesbit

Narration By: Tavia Gilbert

Published By: Bloomsbury USA/Audible for Bloomsbury February 25, 2014

Length: 4 hours and 59 minutes/ 240 pages

Source:  Purchased from Audible

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 a P.O. box for an address 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, and 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.

My Thoughts: 
The voice in this book is written in first person plural, a narrative style that I’ve rarely read and yet find so fascinating when done well.  The narration moves along at a plausible time line, husbands arriving home telling of the move, the secrecy of the move.  Each family being very vague in their destination and what project their husbands were working on.  The obvious placement of the military in Los Alamos was a key of how important this mission was to our national security.  

The idea of this book jumped out at me when I saw the title and then the cover.  I was aware of some of the anonymity of the families that headed west for their husbands and fathers to work on the atomic bomb.  I had no idea at the secrets that were kept as far as testing and implementation of the bombs the US eventually dropped on Japan.  

This book was brilliantly researched and written.  I was enthralled by every chapter as the story and lives of these wives progressed.  The narration was well done, no distinct accent and giving the idea that it was anyone and everyone.  This is a debut novel by TaraShea Nesbit and I am eager to read more of her work.  Highly recommend.

About the Author:

TaraShea Nesbit grew up in Dayton, Ohio, one of the lesser-known Manhattan Project locations. Her writing has been featured in the Iowa Review, Quarterly West, The Collagist, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and is forthcoming on NPR, in Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing and literature courses at the University of Denver and is the nonfiction editor of Better: Culture & Lit. A graduate of the M.F.A. program at Washington University in St. Louis, TaraShea is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature at the University of Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado. (author website, photo credit Bridget McAuliffe)

3 Responses to “Audio Review: The Wives of Los Alamos”

  1. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I really loved this book, though based on Goodreads and other reviews I’ve seen, I know some people had problems with the first person plural. I’m glad to see someone else that embraced it. I bet it’s a little easier to digest in audiobook form, too – I’d be interested to hear this from a narrator!

  2. Melinda Ott

    I was one of those people who was lukewarm about this book. I wonder if I had listened to it, rather than read it, if my opinion would have changed.

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