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The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel

Nesbit, TaraShea

5,299 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1620405032 / ISBN 13: 9781620405031
Published by Bloomsbury USA, 2014
Condition: Collectible: Like New Hardcover
From Hill Country Books (Boerne, TX, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Signed by author on title page without inscription. Stated First U.S. Edition with full number line. Bookseller Inventory # 14-1-29

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: 2014

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Collectible: Like New

Dust Jacket Condition: Like New

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First American Edition.

About this title


Winner of New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards (2014) in Fiction (historical fiction) and Best Book/New Mexico categories

They 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. Though they were strangers, they joined together-adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery.

While the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn't say out loud or in letters, and by the freedom they didn't have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

The Wives of Los Alamos is a testament to a remarkable group of real-life women and an exploration of a crucial, largely unconsidered aspect of one of the most monumental research projects in modern history.

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Amazon Q&A with TaraShea Nesbit, author of The Wives of Los Alamos.

1. What drew you to this time and place?

TaraShea Nesbit: My fascination with the history of the atomic bomb started with learning about a high school in eastern Washington that has an atomic bomber as their mascot; after that, I researched nuclear waste, and I just kept going back and back to the source of the bomb. Though I read about the lead scientists, even more interesting to me was to think of what life was like for their educated, newly married wives who followed their husbands to an unknown location in New Mexico. I wanted to know these women and be their friend and make more space in the world for their voices.

2. What do you enjoy reading and writing about historical fiction?

TSN: In historical fiction, time has stopped, at least for a little while, and I get to see, in slow motion, how co-existing experiences and points of view interact with and affect one another. Another thrill is how much historical fiction actually reveals about the time period in which it is written—the preoccupations and focuses of revisionist history, for example, shift as our contemporary moment shifts. I love that historical fiction enables a reader to inhabit both the consciousness of a contemporary author and the world of the past.

3. What are some books that have influenced you as a writer?

TSN: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, Studs Turkel’s What Work Is, Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, Julianna Spahr’s The Transformation, Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book, Jennifer Denrow's California, and the Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge books by Evan S. Connell.

4. What do you hope readers take away from The Wives of Los Alamos?

TSN: I hope the book adds complexity to readers’ understanding of the 1940s and atomic bomb history, while encouraging them to seek out more information. I want readers to enjoy spending time in the environment the book created, and it would be great if readers notice parallels between these women and that time and the present day.

Discussion Questions for The Wives of Los Alamos.

1. The Wives of Los Alamos is narrated in first person plural. While individual women are mentioned, the wives speak as a group. How does this affect your understanding of them and their story? Do you come to know any of them as individuals? What was your emotional response to this stylistic choice?

2. From the very beginning, the town of Los Alamos is one defined by secrets. Who is keeping information secret from whom? What type of information does each group within the community have access to and how does that information give them power?

3. The wives of Los Alamos are often pregnant, their families steadily growing. What does it mean to be a mother in this community? What do you think it would be like to grow up in that environment, only to move back into the world after the bombs had been dropped?

4. The wives have very different responses to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What are those responses? Are you able to relate to all of them, or are there some you have trouble understanding?

5. As the community of Los Alamos disperses, the wives observe: “Saying good-bye to our friends was not just saying good-bye to them, we were saying good-bye to part of ourselves” (207). What are they leaving behind as they leave Los Alamos? How has this experience changed them?

The original wives of Los Alamos. Photo Credit: Los Alamos Historical Society Archives

The town of Los Alamos. Photo Credit: Los Alamos Historical Society Archives

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