The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel
by TaraShea Nesbit
Review by Gayle Surrette
Bloomsbury USA Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B00GC53AHM
Date: 25 February 2014
Most of the works that I've seen about the building of the bomb at Los Alamos has been about the men who worked there. Tarashea Nesbit tells the story of the women -- the wives, sisters, daughters, and children of those who lived and worked at Los Alamos during the war, and as things wound down after the war.
If you pick up the book expecting to have the story of one or two representative women as they move to and live at Los Alamos, you'll be greatly disappointed. What Nesbit has chosen to do instead is to treat the women as a collective -- we came from the north, south, east and west. It's a bit unsatisfying because as a reader you can't identify with any one person. On the other hand, you do get a feel for what these women went through and what life was like for all of them.
The work on the bomb was top secret. That meant that the women were told that they had to move there, but not why, or for how long, or even what it would be like. They arrived to find that, depending on the importance of their husbands, they might be living in a tent. There wasn't a school for their children. All the things that make a house a home were missing, as was the extended support system they'd had before the move.
Then they were expected to support their husbands and follow the rules of the camp. However, everything was top secret and they weren't allowed to know anything about what was happening there. Nesbit does go into just how these women went about finding out what was going on and how they coped with living in the high desert with very little modern, or even contemporary, amenities like running water, fresh vegetables, or a bathtub.
It's an interesting look at a slice in history dealing with the families and wives of the people who worked on the bomb. The frustrations, joys, stress, and companionship the women developed shows through.
Nesbit brings into light the women who lived in the shadows and the background of a very critical period in American history.