Review: The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

Title: The Wives of Los Alamos

Author: TaraShea Nesbit

Published: Bloomsbury ANZ March 2014

Status: Read on March 17, 2014 {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Some of us thought we saved half a million lives. Some of us thought we, our husbands, were murderers, that we had helped light a fuse that would destroy the world.” p 198

In 1943, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the North American government established a hidden enclave in Los Alamos, New Mexico, drafting the nation’s best scientists, engineers and chemists into service. The men (and a handful of women) were tasked to work on a secret enterprise, requiring them to uproot their wives and children with little notice and move to the South West, forbidden to reveal any information about their new position or location to employers, colleagues, friends, or even family.

While the technicians toiled away in laboratories and offices, their wives and children struggled to adapt to their new environment, making homes in flimsy pre-fab’s without bathtubs or electric stoves, shopping for wilting vegetables and sour milk, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. The wives of Los Alamos created a community with dancing and book clubs and cocktail parties, cared for their children and sent letters home, heavily redacted by the censors. They remained largely ignorant of the work their husband’s were doing until the day the atom bomb was dropped on Japan.

Nesbit reveals the stories of the wives of Los Alamos using the first person plural narrative (we, us). It is an unusual style and did take me a little time to adjust to, but I came to appreciate the way in which it emphasised the unique community and the wives shared experiences, despite their individual differences. The narrative feels authentic and convincing I expect that Nesbit relied on genuine research to ensure the accuracy of the details.

I really enjoyed this unique book. The Wives of Los Alamos is a fascinating novel giving the reader a glimpse into one of the world’s most pivotal events – the development and use of the Atom Bomb, from a perspective rarely considered by history. I’d like to read more about the women’s experiences of Los Alamos.

The Wives of Los Alamos is available to purchase from

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mdbrady
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 02:45:25

    Very interesting. Just my kind of book. My uncle was one of the men who worked on the project, but mostly from Chicago where I suspect there was less of a community of wives. I have long believed that the secrecy of his work took a toil on his wife and their marriage. Surely I will be able to find a copy of this one over here, unlike so many of the books that you review.

    Reply

    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Mar 20, 2014 @ 10:35:40

      The book mentioned there were several enclaves around the country. Having read this I have no doubt the secrecy affected his marriage. You shouldn’t have any problems finding the novel Marilyn, Bloomsbury is a global publisher.

      Reply

  2. Marg
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 07:31:52

    This is a book that I think I will trying to get hold of sooner rather than later. I thnk it sounds fascinating even with the unusual way the collective voice is used.

    Reply

  3. katebellex
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 08:28:42

    Great review Shelley, what a fascinating topic. Sounds like one I will enjoy.

    Reply

  4. Teddyree
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 12:36:03

    Definitely curious about this one, I enjoyed your review Shelleyrae and I’m hoping the unusual style won’t pull me up.

    Reply

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