The Atomic Weight of Love

The Atomic Weight of Love

A Novel

Book - 2016
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In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.

In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.

Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.

Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women's movement opened up the world for a whole generation.

Publisher: Chapel Hill :, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781616204846
Branch Call Number: FICTION Church Elizabet 05/2016
Characteristics: 333 pages ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

List - 2017 DeSoto Book Group
JCLKariE Dec 29, 2016

n her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of ... Read More »

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May 24, 2020

Beautifully written historical fiction story of a marriage between two mis-matched people. Lovingly described in all of its imperfections from the female point of view. The young wife fell in love while in college, to a much older man, her professor. Her ambition was to become an ornithologist, but gave up her graduate studies to marry and follow her husband to Los Alamos, Nevada in order that he follow his career working on the atomic bomb project. The story allows for much self reflection about the choices we make in our lives. Wonderful read for a book club. This book will not soon be forgotten.

Jan 14, 2019

lovely book. Science, love of birds, history of Los Alamos, and difficult life forewoman married to scientists there.

Jul 05, 2018

Picked up because I thought it was going to be about a young female ornithologist. It begins that way but dissolves into 1950s standard of giving up everything for the husband's work. She marries someone older who seemed like he would not follow that standard. The author did not give any clues that she should not marry him.

Chapter headings were "A trembling of wrens" Murder of crows, etc. Because of blurb on the book I thought she was a real person, and this was somewhat a bio. I was fooled, but it became clear soon enough.

robertafsmith Mar 04, 2017

Meridian was a bright young scientist who fell in love with her lecturer, moved to a secret military installation on the Mexican border because of his work, and never completed her degree. All this in the 1940-1950's. Bad time to be young, female and bright. This novel flawlessly exposes a time, a place and a love story. Staff Pickles

EscapesToBooks Oct 11, 2016

I loved this story of a female scientist who gives up her dreams of a career to support her husband's. An all too common tale in the first half of the 20th century. While Meridian has given up her aspirations of becoming an ornithologist and struggles to be a good housewife, she hasn't lost her love of birds or her ability to feel passion.

ArapahoeSharon Oct 05, 2016

Loved this story. Meridian the protagonist of the story was a very educated woman who gave up her dreams to let her husband pursue his. But she needed more passion and had an affair. One man gave her passion and love and the other who fulfilled her joy of learning. But when it came to her following her dreams it was her lover who understood what her needs were, in the end.

ArapahoePamelaH Aug 16, 2016

Looking back at a woman's life, and her struggle to balance her marriage to an older professor and her desire to pursue her study of birds. Changes in society don't happen very quickly...

Aug 11, 2016

A great read! If you've watched the series "Manhattan" then there is a deeper understanding of how Meridian and husband Alden lived during the development of the atomic bomb and the secrecy and sacrifices a couple took. The development over time of Meridian's character included a love affair, changes in society over war efforts, and how women transformed - or not. Meridian studied crows which, if you study or read about, is fascinating in itself.
The issues brought out in the book were not too deeply pursued which would have been more interesting but the variety made it more of a pleasure read.


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