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The Atomic Weight of Love

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  7,113 ratings  ·  1,123 reviews
In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife and Loving Frank, this resonant debut spans the years from World War II through the Vietnam War to tell the story of a woman whose scientific ambition is caught up in her relationships with two very different men.

For Meridian Wallace - and many other smart, driven women of the 1940s - being ambitious meant being an outlier. Ever since sh
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Algonquin Books
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Carol There is a graphic sex portion, not my favorite section, but the rest of the book is truly inspirational for women. Parents: If your teen is mature en…moreThere is a graphic sex portion, not my favorite section, but the rest of the book is truly inspirational for women. Parents: If your teen is mature enough, let her read it. Better still, read it together. Teens: Read it with your parent.(less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  7,113 ratings  ·  1,123 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Update: Kindle has this for $1.99 today!
It's FANTASTIC! I listened to the audiobook- loved the audiobook- but I'd read it just as much!

I just can't say enough good things about this book. I really really really liked it a lot!!!
THE AUDIOBOOK LITERALLY HELD ME HOSTAGE. My feet were walking on the trail - and time flew by.

Meridian Wallace is an aspiring ornithologist- a student in college. Nothing about this tidbit information - or the blub - or even the book cover - ( as eye catching as it is)
Diane S ☔
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
4+ This was my favorite fictional read of the month. Meridian is pursuing her dream of becoming an ornithologist, able to attend the University of Chicago by a mother who wants the nest for her daughters. There she meets and eventually marries on of her professors who seems to treasure Meri's mind. Alden is a brilliant scientist himself and will soon become one of the team at Los Alamos, working on a secret project.

Life in the 1940's was narrowly defined for most women. College until marriage an
Iris P
The Atomic Weight of Love

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

The Atomic Weight Of Love is a work of historical fiction that follows the life of Meridian (Meri) Wallace. We first meet her in the 1940's, as a naive 17- year-old studying to become an Ornithologist at the University of Chicago and someone who by all accounts, has a promising career ahead of her.

At university she meets and shortly marries her teacher Alden Whetstone, an eminent Physicist who would eventually become involved in the development of the atomic bomb.

4.5 Stars

It’s keeping promises, not making them, that is the impossible thing.

I’d read The Wives of Los Alamos in 2015, which is also about the families of the men behind the creation of the Atomic bomb. When I first heard about The Atomic Weight of Love I passed on it since it seemed a similar take on the same story, but after reading Diane’s review (, I began to rethink that decision and look into it more. I read Dorie’s review (https://www.goodreads.c
Cathrine ☯️
The author sets her story in the place where she grew up. Her father did help create the bomb and her mother, a biologist, chose to join him and live life as a committed wife and mother in a community and time “where for the most part a woman was expected to acquiesce to her husband’s wishes and invest her talents in her children.” She wanted to write a story about a woman who might have bridged the differences between those times of the matriarchs in her family and her own experiences and
Richard Derus
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gifted

Rating: 4* of five

At long, long last, a book about a woman's life of rigorous self-denial and eventual blossoming that cleanses the humid, metallic bloodiness of The Awakening from my mental palate. A dry, cold blast of piñon-scented mountain air sweeping clean a century's accumulation of moldy, clammy death-scented grave dirt.

In case anyone would like to see the entire review, it's live today.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“We have to take flight. It's not given to us, served up on a pretty, parsley-bordered platter. We have to take wing. Was I brave enough to do that? Or would I be content to remain earthbound?”

4.5 stars

I relished this story of Meridian (Meri) Whetstone -- her life, her marriage, her career, and her choices. While I questioned some of the actions of the characters, this is a book which felt very authentic. The plot focuses on the outcome of Meri's deicisons when she tables her dreams, talent, and
In Church’s debut, an amateur ornithologist learns about love and sacrifice through marriage to a Los Alamos physicist and a relationship with a Vietnam veteran. Torn between two men who mean so much to her, Meri has to consider what her true duties are. “There was no good solution. No clear way out, no approach that would earn the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” she wryly observes. I instantly warmed to Meri as a narrator and loved following her unpredictable life story. Church reveals the ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: repeatable
I want more stars for this book. It's the best thing I've read this year, and I'm the perfect reader for it--though I can easily see how it is not at a for everyone.

Coincidentally it's the book that put me to the finish line on my reading challenge for the year, which delights me. It's going on the read again shelf. Memorable, unpredictable, smart, linear, focused, endlessly compelling, and about just about all the things I care about. Discovering books like this is why we read.

As an eighty-seven year old woman, Meri writes her memoir.

Meridian Whetstone had a healthy, loving relationship with her parents, both father and mother, but is endorced and supported by her mother to become the ornithologist she wanted to be.
Her mother, working several odd jobs to keep her at university, after her dather's passing, never complained.
~ A love defined by mother's instinct.

Meri met a physicist, professor Alden Whetstone, twenty-one years older than her, fell madly in love with his
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
…I wondered how many times a heart can heal. Are we allotted a specific number of comebacks from heartbreak? Or is that what really kills us, in the end--not strokes or cancer or pneumonia--but instead just one too many blows to the heart? Doctors talk of ‘cardiac insults’--such a perfect turn of phrase--but they know nothing of the heart, not truly.

Exquisite, impressive and contemplative, this is a really smart book that was not easy to get into, but the outstanding writing, the finely-crafted
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The time and place, the scientists working on the A bomb at Los Alamos, are what drew me to this book. I have read other books about the families that were a part of the operation of the entire site and it’s amazing how virtually a small city was established in this lightly populated area.

Meridian Whetstone is an aspiring orinthologist who falls in love with her professor and agrees to put her career on hold and follow Alden to Los Alamos. As their relationship turns into a wife-husband scenario
cardulelia carduelis
I didn't really like this book when it started. In fact, some passages so infuriated me that I bookmarked the pages to reference in this review. Somewhere around page 100 however, I stopped taking notes and was gripped by the story.

This review is tricky, because the subject matter feels very personal and so it's going to colour the review more than I'd like. I suppose all of my reviews are heavily subjective anyway but with this one I'm especially aware of it. Apologies.

I picked this book up b
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
A bright college student marries her professor, 20 years her senior. Despite the fact that this is the early 1940s, she silently assumes that marriage will have no impact on her dreams of pursuing graduate work and a career as an ornithologist. Over the ensuing decades she becomes increasingly resentful of and estranged from her husband. There is a scene early in the marriage that reflected my perception of this novel. A dinner party concludes with the women sharing stories and pictures of their ...more
Ammara Abid
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
'The atomic weight of love' the title, yes that title grab my attention and forced me to read the book soon. I started the book with high hopes but it wasn't upto my expectations. I can't interpret my actual feelings regarding it. I like few parts, those were beautifully written but the idea didn't connect. Too many things but they were not interacted, if they would, it would be a masterpiece for me. The starting page was epic, Meri is an ornithologist, war is going on and then her love life and ...more
In the novel THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE, Meridian Whetstone, aged eighty-seven, introduces her fictional life story to us as a reflective memoir. She tells us about her husband Arden, and ultimately, sums up the wisdom acquired in a complicated period of time and through experience.

"I first loved him because he taught me the flight of a bird, precisely how it happens, how it is possible. ... I was too young to realize that what I really yearned to know was WHY birds take flight - and why, someti
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: most-loved
I read this book about two years ago, though at that stage I didn't really write reviews here. I gave it a five-star rating and left it at that. I'm writing this more to note down how much it has stuck with me. It was a riveting book at the time I read it, but in the time since my mind has returned to it frequently. It was one of my favourite books of 2017, but I think it has also become a favourite book in a general, overall sense.

I'm halfway through her second book, 'All the Beautiful Girls',
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Three fantastic reasons to pick up this book:

1. The birds. Meridian's ornithological studies are brilliantly woven into the storyline of this book, and I have never in my life been so amazed by crows. Church interweaves the habits of various species of birds into each chapter in ways that are equal parts poetic and poignant. "Flight requires defiance of gravity and is really, when you think about it, a bold act...don't confuse gliding with soaring. To soar, an animal must have evolved to possess
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow, I absolutely loved The Atomic Weight of Love! The story was great and the writing throughout the book was beautiful.

The story is told in first person perspective from Meridian Wallace, an intellectual female and aspiring ornithologist. She falls in love with one of her professors, Alden Whetstone, and the story follows her along their journey, in which she moves across the country to be with him and reconsiders some of her own ambitions in support of Alden’s - for better or for worse. The
Yelda Basar Moers
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I've fallen in love with a book, so lost in it that I forget my own time and place and feel completely immersed in the time and place of the story. I think the last time this happened to me was several years ago when I read The Lovely Bones and Anna Karenina.

The Atomic Weight of Love, highly recommended by the Amazon book review blog Omnivoracious (where I discovered it), is a debut novel by Elizabeth J. Church. It's the story of a budding ornithologist in the 1940s
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A quick and easy read, the writing flows nicely. Some coarse language and sexual situaions. I give the book a 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 stars. I would recommend to others.

It's a coming of age story ... a love story... a brilliant woman withering in the shadow of her brilliant husband and knowing she must break free of her mediocre life and be her own person. The book follows Meridian's life span from the 1920's to present time. So much happened over time, war and peace, love and hate, growing into
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I found much to love about this novel. 1) Crows! 2) Science! 3)Southwestern setting – I so enjoyed the references to Mexican food, New Mexico’s landscape, roadrunners, coyotes (so similar to Arizona’s). Of the New Mexico landscape, Church writes, “It seemed the line between life and death was easily crossed here.” Yes! 4) Fabulous, subtle parallels between crow behavior and human relationships.

Admittedly, first-person novels aren’t general
Dale Harcombe
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars.
I was interested in this story from the start, although the book never quite went in the direction I thought it would. The writing is mostly beautiful. I loved the way each chapter started with some information about birds. I kept reading snippets out to my husband. The first is a parliament of owls. How could I not love that! Others include a tidings of magpies, a party of jays and a murder of crows. Crows feature a lot in this book. Meridian Wallace, the main character h
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received an advanced reading copy of The Atomic Weight of Love in exchange for an honest review. I was anticipating loving this novel, but 50 pages in I realized this was something entirely different than I'd expected. I was a bit turned off by the cheesy, sentimental title but the story of a female scientist set against the backdrop of Los Alamos was intriguing so I assumed someone had just made a poor choice. I was disappointed to find that the story never really delved deep and the characte ...more
Joshua Buhs
*Shrugs shoulders.*

A soup-to-nuts tale of a woman's awakening to her own powers.

The story tells of Meridian Wallace, a Scotch Pennsylvania, who by dint of brains and hard work, ends up at the University of Chicago, where she studies biology and dreams of going to graduate school and becoming a professor. But she is waylaid--emphasis on the laid--by another professor, two-decades her senior, a physicist who is recruited to work for the Manhattan Project, but not before he gets Meridian to marry h
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. "The Atomic Weight of Love" follows a familiar arc. A young woman with promising future (as an orinthologist) loses herself in her marriage to an accomplished, older scientist. They settle in post WWII Los Alamos. She is unhappy for a time and then gradually finds fulfillment.

At times the book felt trite - and there were parts that just didn't ring true to me, but I stayed involved with the story and really enjoyed the setting of Los Alamos and Meri's relationship with crows.
joyce g
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, sad and triumphant!

This was a book that left me processing and unsure of just how I felt about it when all was said and done. Let's just say that whatever preconceived notions I had (even though I hadn't realized I made any) had to be discarded. And more than once. A sleeper book that fools you with it's outer packaging, initial set up and mid-story reset, it was soft and gentle, but had hidden sharpness that cut and drew out the readers emotions and thoughts. It doesn't want to be pigeon-holed not eve
The Atomic Weight of Love is a beautifully written novel that tells the story of the life of Meridian Whetstone and, as she tells us, "This is not Oppeheimer's story. . not that of Edward Teller or Niels Bohr, Fermi or Feynman. This is not the story of the creation of the atomic bomb, or of Los Alamos. . . . This is my story, the story of a woman who accompanied the bomb's birth and tried to fly in its aftermath." This is a story of one woman as she looks back on her life and her relationships a ...more
I loved the feminist message in this book. It featured a woman who loved multiple men without any slut shaming. It featured a woman whose sacrifice and compromise for her spouse did not lead to her happiness. If featured a childless woman whose empty nest did not lead to her unhappiness. It featured a modern women in a historical context (~1940-1975) without making her plucky, stubborn or selfish. The writing was a bit overwrought for my personal tastes, but many will probably find it lovely. As ...more
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Elizabeth J. Church is the author of THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE , which was a #1 Indie Next List selection and a Target Club Pick, and was shortlisted by the ABA Indies Choice Book Awards for adult debut book of the year and the Reading the West Book Awards for best adult fiction. ALL THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS is her second novel. ...more

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“We have to take flight. It's not given to us, served up on a pretty, parsley-bordered platter. We have to take wing. Was I brave enough to do that? Or would I be content to remain earthbound?” 11 likes
“Of course women are flighty, I thought. We have more predators than men.” 9 likes
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