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The Wives of Los Alamos

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  5,707 Ratings  ·  1,215 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 (first published 2013)
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Shayla I think it was because she wanted to give the perspective of all the wives who lived there. This is based on the real lives of the women who lived…moreI think it was because she wanted to give the perspective of all the wives who lived there. This is based on the real lives of the women who lived there.(less)

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Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
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
Nov 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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.
Cynthia Archer
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
May 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to reading this book about the wives of the scientists who created the Atomic bomb. Unfortunately I found the author's style of writing frustrating. Written in first person plural,( I was hoping that this would change after the first chapter ) it was difficult to feel any emotion at all, it felt very clinical. It meant that there was no depth to the characters, and was far too impersonal. We did gain some insight into how they had to live their lives, and it could ha ...more
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Interesting, but could not get past the author's style.
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was a Los Alamos wife; the narrative voices in this novel could be my own voice. Even fifty years later, my feelings were theirs.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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

Told from the perspective of the wives who were whisked away from their former lives, families, could tell no one where they really were going or what their husbands were working on, living in the ultimate "Gated Community." A bathtub was a status symbol - even though there was almost never water to fill it. They lived for years unable to vote since they were no longer state citizens, unable to obtain a divorce or even a fishing license in the state of New Mexico. When they went back to try and
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Tavia Gilbert's voice is ideal for the audio book's telling of the story by The Wives of Los Alamos. Hers is a personable and detached voice all at once, and so goes the narration, written masterfully by TaraShea Nesbit, in the first person plural. The only other novel I've read in that voice is The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka about the Japanese "import brides" moving to the US in the early 20th century, which was another fascinating read about a large group of women suffering the same f ...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
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 n ...more
Karin Slaughter
May 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Nye
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Shonna Froebel
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Christine Rebbert
Apr 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had a family reason to read this book. My grandfather and great uncle helped build roads, buildings, and testing facilities at Los Alamos during the war. My grandfather died of leukemia in 1964 ( as did many people who were there at that time). I enjoyed the way the book was written...I know many found the book difficult to read. It is an interesting peek into a very crucial time of our history.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kate by: Russell Gray
Shelves: 2018-books
This is my second try at this review.....I was reminded of this book by Russell of Ink and Paper blog on a video of 5 backlist books that should be read. This is written in the "we" voice in shortish chapters. The wives were asked, taken or dragged to the new town of Los Alamos by their husbands who were scientists (mostly physicists) during World War II. They were recruited from elite universities to work on a top secret project that became the atomic bomb. TaraShea Nesbit writes so well about ...more
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley

Dear Reader,

This book was so interestingly done, and surprisingly good despite its unique approach. The author wrote the book from the second person, inviting the reader into the "group" through the use of "we" and "us" - which also positioned the wives as a group, and I really liked that. This wasn't a story about one person's experience, but rather a kind of study about the situation that the families of Los Alamos experienced in the early 1940s. Los Alamos being, of course, the
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Shari Larsen
This is the story of the wives of the scientists who developed the atomic bomb during the World War 2 years, and how they adapted to life in a military town, where everything was top secret, including what kind of work their husbands were really doing. They were strangers, but they came together as a community, because all they had were each other. They had limited contact with family and old friends, and they were not permitted to tell anyone exactly where they were.

The author told this story t
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TaraShea Nesbit was born in Dayton, Ohio, one of the lesser-known secret Manhattan Project locations during WWII. Her nonfiction, fiction, and critical essays have appeared in The Guardian, Salon, Fourth Genre, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of fiction and nonfiction at Miami University.

THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS was a New York Times Boo
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