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Publisher: Algonquin Books$12.43
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Meridian Wallace grew up wanting to study birds. As a student at the University of Chicago in the 1940s, she falls in love with and marries an older physics professor, Alden Whetstone, who leaves her side temporarily to work on the Manhattan Project. At the end of the war, he stays on at Los Alamos, but Meri joins him, putting her graduate work in ornithology on hold. On her own, she begins to study and sketch the local crow population. As the decades pass, Meri resigns herself to a marriage devoid of passion. Then, in 1970, she meets Clay Griffin, a geology student and Vietnam veteran who, at 26, is young enough to be her son. Meri resolves to keep her distance from the disarmingly straightforward young man, but is drawn back to him time and again. As Meri considers leaving her husband for him, a sudden illness forces her to re-evaluate her plans for the future. As characters go, Meri is a little too passive, Alden too one-dimensional a domestic tyrant, and Clay too good to be true. Nonetheless, readers will enjoy following Meri’s long, vivid journey, which concludes in her 80s. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (May)