The Wives of Los Alamos
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The Wives of Los Alamos

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  2,074 ratings  ·  540 reviews
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 h...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Bloomsbury
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I expect that most reviews of Tarashea Nesbit's The Wives of Los Alamos will begin as this one does, by noting that the entire work is written in the first person plural. The Wives of Los Alamos doesn't contain a number of individual characters; instead, it is people by a single, plural "character," a chorus singing in unison. This plural voice is the central fact of the novel, and it shapes the reader's experience. Let me give you a quick sample from the opening:

We were European women born in S...more
We didn't like this book. We don't like stories told in first person plural. We felt this made the story unnecessarily vague and lacking the personalization that would endear the story to the reader. We felt that the author perhaps told the story in this manner to avoid having to be detailed. But we felt that lack of detail lessened the impact of what was taking place. If we had something else to read we would have stopped reading this book after the second chapter. We only have the book an extr...more
I can appreciate the attempt at unifying a character cast by consistently referring to said cast in the royal "we" or "they" or "us." It was a good idea to set the tone. After page 10, it got old. By page 20, I was done.
Interesting, but could not get past the author's style.
While the rest of the country prepared itself for war, women from across the United States and the world gathered their families, belongings and willingness to adapt in order to support their husbands in New Mexico. For years, these women were living under a shroud of mystery, slowly building a community among strangers, sharing little but their common bond of life behind an unknown bomb.

The Wives of Los Alamos is filled with a chorus of we. There is no I or me, no protagonist. Though the exten...more
Let's get one thing out in the open first. This book is written in the first person plural. This is unusual and it might drive some readers crazy. At first I kept thinking, oh, soon the real book is going to start and it will be more conventional. But no, it's "we did this" though the whole book. But once I adjusted to it, and realized it's not exactly a novel, I did enjoy the book. The book is the story of the families who went to Los Alamos, NM in the 1940s while their husbands (and a few wome...more
Cynthia Archer
I could not get past the author's style of writing: first person plural. It is a very subjective choice, and it made the beginning intriguing. Unfortunately, it quickly got old, at least for me, and I found myself wondering when she was going to switch to a more personal narrative. As I continued reading, I realized that that change wasn't going to happen, and I resigned myself to what I found an increasingly irritating style.
Los Alamos has been written about in numerous non-fiction books and...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

"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 c...more
Jennifer Boyce
I thought that the premise of this book sounded fantastic and I couldn't wait to read it, yet when I actually sat down to read it, I found that the execution just wasn't that great.

This book was written in a very unique manner. The narrator of the story refers to everyone as "we" or "some of us", rather than referring to the majority of characters by their names. At first I was fine with this stylistic decision, I found it fitting to the story, and thought that it added a nice touch. Yet as the...more
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 ma...more
TaraShea Nesbit’s "The Wives of Los Alamos" tells the collective story of the women who moved to Los Alamos to be with their scientist husbands during the Manhattan Project. Collective story, that is, because the book is written in a distinct and novel manner: the first person plural. “Our husbands joined us in the kitchen and said, We are going to the desert, and we had no choice except to say, Oh my! as if this sounded like great fun. Where? we asked, and no one answered.” While this style cho...more
Rebecca Foster
Get used to two words: “we” and “or.” I find the first-person plural perspective intriguing, if not always successful. I’m also interested in the current vogue for novels about famous wives (see my recent BookTrib articles on the subject). So this book should have been perfect for me, right?

Well, I did like it, but I have the same qualms as I did with The Buddha in the Attic – this is a good panoramic picture, giving the range of experience of the wives who accompanied scientists building the a...more
I have never read a book written in such an unusual way. Instead of a character narrating the story, or a group of characters taking it in turns to narrate the story from their different points of view, THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS is told by all the women all at the same time; a sort of collective everywoman. Greek chorus is another expression that came to mind. I found it to be both refreshingly different and terribly off-putting.

Set in World War II THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS is set in an isolated pa...more
Karin Slaughter
While it took a while to get used to the collective narrative voice, I really loved this book for the history. The way the families were just swept away and basically kept as prisoners who were not allowed to have contact with the outside world (or, for that matter, to even know why they were there) was shocking. And living in the quonset huts without provisions or bathtubs or any support reminds me that there was never a time when our government was a well-oiled machine, especially toward the s...more
The novel is stylistically reminiscent of The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka's lyrical novel of Japanese picture brides in the early decades of the last century that was short listed for the National Book Award. Tarashea Nesbit tries this same technique to describe the lives of the wives of the scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico who were building the first atomic bomb. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but the flattery doesn't work if the writer in question is not as skilled...more
Shonna Froebel
This novel has a very different structure. Nesbit did a fair bit of research on Los Alamos and the women who lived there with their scientist husbands, and came up with an approach that spoke to all the women, spoke from a first person point of view, but in a group sense, and felt very personal.
Each chapter has a different theme, and is made up of short paragraphs around that theme. Within each paragraph, the voice offers different experiences in the same vein, some of them opposite to each othe...more
Imagine leaving home and moving to an unknown place; maybe having your name changed; not being able to talk to your husband about his job or even know what he is doing; cut off from your family and friends; and being in primitive conditions where a bath and even a cup of coffee are challenges. This is life for the Wives of Los Alamos. I've long been fascinated by the history of Los Alamos and the development of the atomic bomb. Tarashea Nesbit adds immeasurably to that history with her debut nov...more
At some point in the of development of their skill, a writer will want to experiment. They'll read other writers who've successfully challenged the tropes and structures of literature--Vonnegut, Grudin, Calvino, Oates--and want to do the same, and at some level this is understandable. For all the freedom and opportunity provided by literature, there are also borders: stories are told in chapters, the audience is never addressed, dialogue is accompanied by verbs and adverbs to signify the speaker...more
I started this book enthusiastically. Having read an excellent biography of Oppenheimer and a great many novels about the women of WWII ... on the home front in Britain, in America, nurses on front lines, French resistance agents, etc., it was a theme with great possibilities. But it was a disappointment. The use of first person plural that was annoying at first and awkward became maddening by the end. It necessitated the endless multiple contradictions. Why not select some reasonably representa...more
**** 1/2

What a curious book. I really liked it--it's beautifully poetic--and I'll think about it for ages. It seems odd to call it a novel because there is no character development to speak of and the plot is quite loose, telling many people's stories all at once. But I don't know what else you would call this series of linear vignettes....

Additionally, it's told in first person plural (we instead of I or she) which takes some getting used to but didn't detract (for me) as some reviewers have in...more
At first the book was a little strange to me because the author wrote it as a group. and used “we”. An example is “we came from New York, or we came from Nebraska or we came from Hamburg”, or “we wanted new stoves, or we wanted to go shopping, or we wanted to be able to spend more time with our husbands”. After a while I got used to that syle of writing and it didn’t bother me.

The book, while maybe not exactly as it happened, was a great story, a quick read, and one I really enjoyed. I can’t ima...more
Michael Nye
This debut novel uses the first person collective voice to tell the story of the wives of the scientists who built the atomic bomb. It's an unusual narrative choice, and a difficult one, which is why so few novels are written from this perspective. The collective narrative allows the story to move in and out of characters lives, while reminding the reader that all these women are viewed as one, both by others and themselves.

Nesbit's training is as a poet, and viewing this book almost like poetry...more
Christine Rebbert
Some of us read reviews of this book and waited for our turn at the library. Some just went out and bought it. A few of us had it passed to us by a friend who'd read it. As we started, we noticed that the contrivance of the style was basically identical to that of the many voices in "The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka. Those who hadn't read "The Buddha" were experiencing this style for the first time. Some liked the style; some didn't. A few of us found it interesting that the style was be...more
The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit recounts the story of the families who were involved in the creation of the atomic bomb. When I read the blurb for this book I was immediately intrigued and couldn't wait to read it. However, the author uses a rather unique style of writing in this book using the first person plural, referring to everyone as "we" or "some of us". I found this style to be very frustrating to read. It lacked character development, which I enjoy in a novel. The storyline l...more
Laura Lee
Told in the "we" vernacular. The story of multiple women in one. I loved that, don't think I have ever read anything like it. End of WWII and these women and their families move to the dessert to be with their scientist husbands. Just what are these men doing? The book talks of the struggles getting groceries, schooling for their children and other basics of life. Like a bath! Great writing. Put me into the story, dirt and heat combined. Would recommend, would be good book club book.
“The Wives of Los Alamos” is a unique and odd read, told as it is in the first person plural.

Get a feel for the book: “Our husbands came from small towns, from large cities, from fields, from concrete. We met them on boardwalks in Atlantic City, on football fields in Iowa, at cafes in Berlin, at scientific meetings in Moscow. They were disqualified for the draft due to rheumatic fever as a child, diabetes, being overweight, being underweight, asthma, deafness, or poor eyesight. They spoke severa...more
This is more like 3.5 stars. The first-person-plural style is a huge hurdle to get over, but I didn't find it that frustrating after I'd gotten used to it. It did help to think of the book as an extended short story rather than a novel. One of the other readers in my group struggled with trying to follow the little stories that were hinted at - so and so is cheating and so on.

All in all, I thought the author did a good job of showing the breadth of experiences of the families at Los Alamos - a m...more
Married to the bomb
BookPage® Review by Amy Scribner

The women came from all over the nation—even the world—with little or no idea why they were moving to a remote New Mexico town with only a post office box for an address. They were the wives of scientists working at a secret research laboratory to build the first atomic bomb.

The Manhattan Project is a storied chapter in American history, its products used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Less well recorded are the voices of the women who lived there i...more
Jul 16, 2014 Linda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Linda by: Booktopia Boulder 2014 author
This book is written in a style unlike anything I've ever read. The first person plural did not cause me an issue, but the short paragraphs took me a bit to get used to. I was well into the book before I realized that my feelings about reading this book paralleled the Los Alamos wives. Uprooted, questioning, unsettled, changing to acceptance and non-normal war-time becoming normal. By the end of the book, I did not want it to end.
The Wives of Los Alamos is a fictional rendering of historical events that changed the course of World War II, as told from the perspective of the wives of the scientists who created the atomic bomb.

Although they didn't know it at the time, these women and their children were witnesses to history, nestled in an isolated community, shrouded in mystery, in the desert hills of New Mexico. While their husbands toiled away in the highly secretive Tech Area, the women held their growing families toge...more
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TaraShea Nesbit was born in Dayton, Ohio, one of the lesser-known secret Manhattan Project locations during WWII. She studied creative writing at Ohio State University, received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently pursuing a PhD from the University of Denver. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, The Collagist, and Hayden's Ferry Review, among othe...more
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