Tag: Los Alamos

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

Posted May 9, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 2 Comments

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea NesbitTitle: The Wives of Los Alamos (Goodreads)
Author: TaraShea Nebit
Published: Bloomsbury, 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It wasn’t until the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 that the Americans really got involved in the Second World War and they did this in a big way. It was often referred to as Project Y, a secret laboratory that sourced scientist from all over the country to help the allies in their war efforts. The Laboratory was located in Los Alamos, New Mexico and the secret project was The Manhattan Project.

TaraShea Nebit’s debut novel The Wives of Los Alamos explores the birth of the atomic age. Although many may have wondered what it was like for the wives of these scientist. The secrets their husbands had to keep and somehow convince their wives and families to move to an undisclosed location. If we took the time and really thought about what it would have been like, we might have come up with the same answers as Nebit.

However TaraShea Nebit did the research (resources used are mentioned at the end of the novel) and then set out to write this unique novel. The Wives of Los Alamos is written in the collective voice of the wives of Los Alamos, which takes a while to get used to. The plural first person perspective is rather odd and it tends to keep the reader at arm’s length and never really allows an intimate look at the feelings these women must have been going through. With lines like “We married men just like our fathers, or nothing like them, or only the best parts.“ I get the sense that the author is generalising the feelings and while I appreciate the research she did, this type of writing feels more like speculation rather steaming from truth.

I find it difficult to review this novel, there is no protagonist and the plot is a very basic look at different aspects of life set out to drive the book along. TaraShea Nebit is very clever and the novel pushes the reader to actually imagine what life would be like for these families. In a time where everyone is concerned with war these families are uprooted and forced to live with a completely different sets of worries in mind. Secrecy can tear families apart and the importance of The Manhattan Project demands that this secret be kept. I can’t imagine a life like this but The Wives of Los Alamos offers some idea.

I found it difficult to connect with the women in the story, they were nameless and faceless. Their collective voices all sang the same tune but really people are not all the same that I never got a look into the emotions and thoughts of just one of the women. A biography from one of these women would have been better; The Wives of Los Alamos gives you a taste but left me wanting so much more.

This was a fascinating novel but it never went into any great detail of the social complexities facing these families. I would have liked to explore the psychological effects this great secret had on the family and relatives. Even have a peek into the cultural effects of birth of the atomic age, considering the Los Alamos National Laboratory played key roles in both the Atom and Hydrogen bomb. It is a fascinating period of American history and science, The Wives of Los Alamos has whet my appetite and I might look at some of the books TaraShea Nebit mentioned at the end.