The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit is beautifully written, lyrical, unique and could be the best fiction I’ve read in a very long time.
I downloaded this audio book so long ago that I’d forgotten it was a novel– I was half way through it, thinking it was a memoir, when I discovered it was a novel. If you’re looking for a great summer read–this is my book recommendation for summer or any season at all.
Why was it so notable? To begin with, it’s written in the third person, which can be super annoying, but in this case, it’s executed so well and so poetically that I was immediately drawn into the lives of the women, women who ended up in the remote and fairly primitive town of Los Alamos simply because their husbands were ace physicists. The men were, of course, working on the atomic bomb, a fact that was kept secret from their wives and anyone else without the proper security clearance.
Imagine being a wife and mother sent to a isolated, desert town, to a small, rudimentary house that frequently was without clean water. Imagine being unable to reveal where you were and what you were doing to family and friends left behind. Your letters were censored. Imagine that your husband couldn’t discuss his work at all, not even with you. Later, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, imagine finding out that the husbands had been working on something so destructive that it would alter the course of the war and of the world. I won’t ruin the book by saying more, but I can say that I hated for this book to end.
One important note: I heard it on Audible and it was read by one of the best female voices I’ve heard on Audible. So good that I’ll look for more audio books she reads. Because the book is so lyrical, a good reader makes all the difference.
(The reader for Cheryl Strayed’s Wild was so annoying I hated the book and never finished it.)
I mistook the historical novel for memoir because the content has the ring of truth, and in fact, the author did extensive research on Los Alamos and listened to oral histories done by the real wives of Los Alamos’ and read their memoirs. Nesbit says that almost everything in the novel actually happened and I believe it. I love the 1940s and from the attitudes of the men, the women and the government the book effectively evoked that era. If you’re looking for a book recommendation and if you enjoy lyric novels that are written differently than most, give this one a try. And let me know what you think!