The quiet, spare beauty of New Mexico's mesas, and the changing desert light that reflects off spring snow, shimmers on pinon needles and marches rele...moreThe quiet, spare beauty of New Mexico's mesas, and the changing desert light that reflects off spring snow, shimmers on pinon needles and marches relentlessly toward the heat of August 1945, create a vivid backdrop to a story about man's most terrible hour- the creation of the atomic bomb.
This is a complex and morally ambiguous story that is told simply, through the perspectives of Leo Kavan, a Jewish physicist and Czech national who has abandoned his post at the Los Alamos research complex, and Eleanor Garrigue, an American artist who finds refuge and creative muse in the high desert near Santa Fe.
Leo's and Eleanor's stories unfold in different worlds: a gifted scientist who is mentored by Einstein, Leo narrowly escaped as Czechoslovakia was crushed under Nazi jackboots, but he is losing hope of finding his cherished sister who was left behind; Eleanor is a successful artist, yet breathless under the grip of her husband's power and jealousy. She lives in fear of a telegram that will inform her of the execution of her brother, a POW in Japan. Gallagher deftly uses historical events to draw their paths closer together until they collide on the banks of an arroyo.
A mature and graceful love story tenuously frames the drama. The author creates a believable emotional and physical coup de foudre between two adults whose professions center on creativity and whose adult lives have brought great success and harrowing loss. Leo's growing realization that the weapon, which he hoped would mean the end to the Nazi regime and the persecution of Jews in Europe, will likely be the means of far greater and longer lasting destruction. His character brings a sense of humanity to the inner moral and ethical battles that must have been waged inside the Los Alamos compound and inside the scientists' hearts.
Gallagher lets loose with too much technical detail about the crafting of the atomic bomb- space that could have been better spent in character development- but she also opens a fascinating window into Los Alamos. This novel's rays of light and vacuums of shadow characterize the dilemmas and decisions of the individuals who shaped our modern history. (less)
A few minutes ago I turned the final page on The Clearing, Tim Gautreaux. I'm still trembling. From general exhaustion and distraction, it took me sev...moreA few minutes ago I turned the final page on The Clearing, Tim Gautreaux. I'm still trembling. From general exhaustion and distraction, it took me several days to get through the first 80 or so pages; this morning I went through three cups of coffee and 4 instrumental CDs to read the remaining 225. It's an extraordinary book, a captivating story- I learned something about an era (Prohibition), a place (the swamps of Louisiana), a people (lumber/millworkers) and got caught up with a family that both confounded and endeared themselves to me.
THere are so many themes here- the devastating effects of war on those who survive it, the hand of the Mob in the depths of the South, rum-runners, brotherly love, desperate violence-both man and nature-made, the hovel-like conditions of a mill settlement, destruction of the South's beautiful forests, the continued degradation of anyone of color, the poor and women. Yet, Gautreaux never preaches, moralizes or paints anything in black and white. The characters are complex, human, flawed and beautiful. It's an outstanding read. (less)
A beautiful book. A book that I would want to read aloud with my child and hope that he/she savored it again as an adult. Francie Nolan is my Harriet...moreA beautiful book. A book that I would want to read aloud with my child and hope that he/she savored it again as an adult. Francie Nolan is my Harriet the Spy of turn of the century New York. She is a soul of great spirit, insight, wit and fierceness. This is one for home library, to be sure. (less)