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Charmed Particles

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  127 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Set in a fictional prairie town in which the two overarching industries are a living history facility and a laboratory for experiments in high-energy particle physics, Charmed Particles tells the intertwined stories of two families.

Abhijat is a theoretical physicist from India now working at the National Accelerator Research Laboratory. His wife, Sarala, home with their y
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 17th 2015 by Dzanc Books (first published November 10th 2015)
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Rob Forteath
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book tells the stories of two families who are outsiders in a small town. The two daughters are exceptionally clever and curious; the two fathers are exceptionally passionate and successful. Sadly, the two mothers tend towards Marge Simpson: dutiful, vaguely unsatisfied, long-suffering, etc. -- one develops an ambition, the other an outside interest, but neither of these seem to matter all that much.

The parallel stories are skilfully told in a very straightforward manner that also manages t
Thomas Mcphee
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a deceptively simple book, harrowing and heartwrenching, a book about love, expectation, masculinity, and the ways in which the world wrenches control out of our hands. This is a wonderful, elegant book. I will admit, however, that this could have been an absolutely exceptional book, except for the final 40 pages that allow the book to wrap too gently and resolves the character arcs somewhat arbitrarily. I still highly recommend this book to anyone interested in science, small rural comm ...more
Bill Wolfe
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For more reviews of literary fiction by women, see my blog,

Chrissy Kolaya’s debut novel is set in a small town just beyond the edge of the Chicago suburbs during the 1980s and concerns the intersecting lives of two families.

Abhijat Mital is a theoretical physicist from India who works at the National Accelerator Research Laboratory in Nicolet, Illinois. He is a workaholic obsessed with making a breakthrough that will lead to the Nobel Prize in Physics and a legacy
Book Riot Community
Set in a small prairie town, Charmed Particles is the story of two families pulled in opposite directions. Abhijat is a theoretical physicist working at the town’s particle accelerator lab. His wife, Sarala, is a stay at home mother to daughter Meena. Both are trying to find their places, one in America and the other in public school. Meena’s best friend is Lily. Her father, Randolph, is a “gentleman explorer” while her mother, Rose, has made her mark in local politics. When a proposal comes for ...more
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Technically finished on January 1st but I want it to count for 2015. Really liked this book and the super sweet ending really warmed my heart. I love immigration stories, and I really liked the short chapters made up of even shorter snippets which made the book very quick to read. I liked some of the quirks (like the index of the girls' 4th grade report) and wished there had been a few more. Overall I just really liked this story, set against the backdrop of the Midwest in the 70s and 80s, its c ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book takes a complex area of physics and weaves it into a charming story about the changing dynamics of community, the journey of self discovery, the awaking that occurs through life experience, maturity, and the acceptance of things beyond our control. The characters are engaging and endearing. This should be on your reading list this year.
Angela Noel
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Charmed Particles: A Novel

How should we face the unknown? What creates a lasting legacy? Woven throughout Chrissy Kolaya's novel, explicitly or implicitly, these questions are on the minds of the beautifully drawn characters in CHARMED PARTICLES.

In a fictional Chicago suburb two industries exist in symbolic balance; the National Accelerator Research Laboratory with its cadre of scientists wrangling questions of subatomic particles and their role in the universe, and a Williamsburg, Virginia-lik
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Chrissy Kolaya’s Debut Novel, Charmed Particles Successfully Launches into
a New Realm of Exotic Matter

Do you like original adventures, gradual suspense, quirky characters, or a slight touch of wanderlust? If you answered yes to any of the above, then Chrissy Kolaya’s debut novel Charmed Particles, might be the newest page-turner that you add to your bookshelf.

Nestled in the fictional, Midwestern prairie town of Nicolet, Illinois, the story centers thought-provoking narrative about family,

Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The lives of Abhijat Mittal his wife Sarala and their daughter Meena draws parallel with the lives of Rose, Randolph and their very intelligent daughter Lily. The author has spun such a wonderful tale that not only it tells us the story but makes us wonder the differences among humans even if they are our family and how with acceptance and love everything works out in the end

Abhijat is a theoretical physician who is excited to work at the premier physics lab at Nicolette Illinois
His work is the
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Picked this up to pre-read as a possibility for one of the library's book groups since the author is local and would be available to participate.

I can't believe how quickly I was sucked in and plowed through the story which takes place during the 1970s and 1980s in Illinois where a proposed supercollider might be built. This sets up: us vs the, science vs town, scientists vs "normal" people, neighbor against neighbor, and family against family.

The two families featured are each outsiders in thei
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I had a hard time engaging with the characters in this book. I think it will lead to a more interesting discussion due to the issues it raises about marriage, relationships, community, and growing up. The modern question rears its head...your family or your job? Good for reflection.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
interesting study of different personalities and learning to embrace change. pretty easy to read, maybe a little longer than it needed to be.
Donna Trump
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yet another of my amazing writer friends, this time fellow 2007-2008 Loft mentee Chrissy Kolaya, has a book out this month: Charmed Particles. For Kolaya, it's a debut novel, and a novel novel it is, folks. In her own words, in response to a question posed by Kim Ukura of the Morris Sun Tribune, Kolaya says "The book is weird and difficult to explain concisely." Ukura sees through Kolaya's modesty and inveterate humor to suggest that Charmed Particles is a book about family, ambition and communi ...more
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book did a lovely job of showing us what happens in close relationships over time, the way people quietly love each other and hold hope for the relationship, how inattention wears on marriage/family, and what happens when you want to be supportive but find yourself feeling conflicted. The larger story highlighted the tension between progress and established tradition, the new and the old, and the change curve that people face. This book showed what people are like when they face the unfamil ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book, usa, fiction
I found myself charmed by this relaxed, intimate, and particularly Midwestern novel, wrestling with themes of family, belonging, history, and innovation, community, ands self. Gently paced yet riveting, Charmed Particles follows a couple of unconventional women, their distant, intellectual husbands, and their precocious daughters in the rural town turned Chicago suburb of Nicolet, Illinois, mainly during the ‘80s. The setting takes advantage of a changing atmosphere in the Midwest during the lat ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, science, chicago
The best thing about this book is that it gives you so many thought-provoking things to chew on. It gets into arguments with itself over certainty vs. shades of gray, history vs. modernity, career vs. family, childhood dreams vs. adult realities, staying home vs. leaving, intellectual vs. social life, marriage for love vs. practical partnership, standing out vs. fitting in, logic vs. enormous variety of conflicts that come down to: how much can you singlemindedly pursue your pass ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"It can be liberating to let go of hopes that chain one to unhappiness, dissatisfaction."

For me, Charmed Particles was largely about finding happiness in the present instead of constantly reaching towards to future; to accepting life for what it is instead of constantly reaching for something bigger, brighter; to understanding that the inability to reach a goal doesn't necessarily mean failure, but more so a change of direction and plans.

Given that these are all thoughts and ideas that I've been
Mar 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
The characters had the potential to be dynamic and vivid, but instead were flat and uninteresting. The setting never came alive and remained nothing more than a two dimensional bland place that I couldn't have cared less about. The plot was dull. When I read the synopsis of the book I thought it was a solid enough idea to build a story around. In the end I was proved wrong; the book was a chore to read.

I could go on but I think it is enough to say that the author's writing style is not for me. M
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For all of my friends who were in high school in the early 90s, this is an entertaining read, and I highly recommend it!

The story follows two girls and their respective families as they navigate growing up on the nerdier side of suburbia. One girl's parents are from India, and the descriptions of their assimilation to the U.S. are touching and well-crafted. Throw in heated local politics involving a proposed new scientific facility, Mary Kay ladies, and a gentleman explorer - it is thoroughly e
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary-lit
This novel caught my eye because it is about our own neighborhood. Anyone living in Illinois' Fox Valley area will be familiar with Fermi-Lab in Batavia and the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora. Though the site names are changed, locals will clearly recognize the references.

The 1970s story centers around several related themes: the transformation of precious Illinois farmland to unknown and possibly dangerous science research, the beginning age of special education for gifted students
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was a very refreshing read. I read this coming off of a very dense novel that also incorporated unique clippings from other mediums to tell the story, and I must say that Charmed Particles did it better! The letters to the editor, recipes, and letters that were sprinkled throughout the novel added a special depth to the characters and their world. Having spent time writing for a small town newspaper and fielding controversial letters to the editor, as well as now living in a suburb of ...more
Julie Hiatt
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's no easy task to write a novel that centers around a specialized, complicated hard science topic and emerges eminently readable. Chrissy Kolaya accomplishes this, creating relatable characters and painting a vivid portrait of small-town life in the 1970s and 80s. The author effectively weaves themes of immigration, wanderlust, fitting in, standing out, facing change, appreciating history, and looking for marvel in the largest and smallest places imaginable. I usually dodge any scenario where ...more
Mary Ann
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kolaya brings us into the lives of two families and their experiences in the suburban community of Nicola, Illinois. They are not typical, one father is a theoretical physicist at the research laboratory, who moved from India and the other father is a modern day explorer, always off to exotic locales for an adventure magazine. The story of the two women they married and their daughters, who become good friends, provide a fascinating lens with which to view the upcoming debate over the building o ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, 2016
I may be a little biased here because I have personal knowledge of actual places and things in this book, I found this was an enjoyable story. In, fact, because of my personal connections, my bar for this book was higher than normal, but it met my expectations splendidly. There were a few minor things that seemed off (such as how long it took Sarala to make friends in the community - I think she would have found a mommy group when Meena was little) but overall a delightful story. I am hoping for ...more
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I find that the term "domestic fiction" is often used pejoratively but this is a great example of what the genre is. Focused on two families and their growth/change over time, I really appreciated how much happened.

Academic fiction is also fun, as well as the examination of otherness.

Ending was too neat and done expressions/prose style were repeated to often.

Look toward to more from this author.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Wizard of Oz fable, there's no place like home. Two families raise daughters together in the suburbs of Chicago; one husband is a physicist from India searching for particles and fame, the other husband is an explorer, searching the world for interesting experiences and people. Their daughters become friends, strangers in a strange world, while their wives continue to keep the home fires burning. Cliches? Yes, but still fun to read.
Aalap Chikhalikar
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really liked this book - excellent for a debut novel author. Very well researched and the author dug through archives of actual public forums held against the Large collider in Illinois. Helped me understand how and why a lot of people opt against good science - emotion vs. science is a battle science is bound to lose. Characters were well drawn out, loved the level of accurate detail on the Indian family as well as excellently described physics
May 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Just couldn't get through the second chapter. The airport scene had enough details that wouldn't have happened in real life that it was distracting. Some of the passive voice was also hard to get through. I just finished a fantastic book, though, so perhaps I'm harsher on it than I should be. But it just didn't interest me at all.
Michelle Ross
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This compassionate and intelligent novel strikes an idiosyncratic, earnest tone, which Peter Ho Davies compared to Wes Anderson’s films. I can think of no more apt a comparison. And while Kolaya examines the ways in which people’s differing values give rise to fear and anger that alienate them from one another, she doesn’t take sides, but instead brings deep humanity to all of her characters.
Autumn Kotsiuba
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, need-to-own
Great novel that explores a lot of concepts in a subtle yet powerful way. And, I learned that the underground tunnels we'd explore in Waxahachie (where I went to university) were actually part of a half-finished supercollider. So that sort of made my week.
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