Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Wives of Los Alamos, by TaraShea Nesbit

This is a fascinating book, both in terms of its story and the way the story is told. Nesbit drew from a score of memoirs written by the wives and children of the physicists who developed the nuclear bomb in secrecy in Los Alamos to develop a composite view of their experience.  Using the first person plural almost exclusively, she explores the backgrounds, lives, and politics of these women:  We had degrees from Mount Holyoke, as our grandmothers did, or from a junior college, as our fathers insisted. We had doctorates from Yale; we had coursework from MIT and Cornell: we were certain we could discover for ourselves just where we would be moving.  For the three years (1943-1945) during which the women and their children were sequestered on a primitive military base, Nesbit shows their commonalities (they were all very lonely) and wide differences in relation to themes such as Our Children, Other Women's Children, Our Older Children, Spreading Rumors, and Longing.  She also explores the wives relations with the other women on the base:  the female scientists, the WAC's, and the Native American help.

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