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The Atomic Weight of Love
In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from...
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General opinion of the book

Created: 03/19/17

Replies: 40

Posted Mar. 19, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
swchis39

Join Date: 09/26/12

Posts: 46

General opinion of the book

It isn't often I read the book quickly. However I loved this book and didn't want it to end. Many nuisances and thought provoking sections. So true to the he time the book took place.


Posted Mar. 19, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroln

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 48

RE: General opinion of the book

This is not an easy book. I liked it; I didn't. It was slow read and then you would get to a section that was brilliantly written and insightful. The characters seemed underdeveloped and often playing out a role to serve the plot. Meridian was the key character, however, I had mixed feelings about her. At times, I sympathized with her plight, but at others, I felt like she was being unfair to her husband. He was a man of his times with his attitude toward women and Meridian didn't realize this until later. They were mismatched, but yet there was a connection between them that neither saw.


Posted Mar. 19, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

Posts: 397

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RE: General opinion of the book

I really got pulled in by this book. It definitely spoke to me. Meri was rather atypical of her era in that she did not only go to college but wanted to pursue a career in sciences was not common at that time for females. Even in the late sixties when I was in college most of my female classmates did not go to college and most certainly not to pursue a science field which, fortunately, I did any way. Watching her struggle with Alden's domineering and superior attitude was heartbreaking. I respected her for her loyalty to him but lauded her spirit to fight for her rightful inheritance after his death. She may not have been able to pursue her own dreams but it spurred her to try to be sure other young women had the help and encouragement to pursue theirs in spite of the opinions of fathers and husbands.


Posted Mar. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
PiperUp

Join Date: 10/27/15

Posts: 71

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RE: General opinion of the book

This book snuck up on me. The beginning felt a little bit slow but by around 30-40% of the way through I just couldn't put the book down & ended up reading it all in one sitting. I didn't realize the emotional impact the book was having on me until the end when I had tears in my eyes. I was so happy that Meridian finally found independence & happiness in her foundation.


Posted Mar. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kbschaffer

Join Date: 03/20/17

Posts: 8

RE: General opinion of the book

The book spoke to time and place very well. The story line seemed to slow down and become mundane which is what was happened to Meridian's life at the time. We often forget the attitudes that our "fore-mothers" had in the 50's, 60's, and 70's that allowed them to live lives of quiet desperation.


Posted Mar. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 180

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RE: General opinion of the book

Meridian was definitely ahead of her time, and Alden reflected perhaps the worst characteristics of his, at least as far as attitudes toward women were concerned. The setting of the book played a role in this as well - I felt like had they stayed in Chicago or another university setting, she might have been able to pursue her dreams and he might not have become so "traditional." The counterpoint created by Meri's relationship with Clay certainly emphasized the changing of the times on a number of levels -- but felt a little shallow to me. The ending frustrated me as well - too much "perfect timing" to bring things to a neat conclusion. In the end, I wished for a book that was more time limited in its span but deeper in its treatment of both the relationship and professional issues touched on.


Posted Mar. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sweeney

Join Date: 05/24/11

Posts: 76

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RE: General opinion of the book

I read the book in one sitting. Meridian, in particular, was well drawn...enough so that I was screaming at her to leave her husband half way through the book. The Los Alamos background was interesting, but didn't to me seem to make much difference...it could have happened anywhere. Perhaps to women of a generation or so younger than me need the claustrophobic atmosphere of the place to make it more believeable...but not me.


Posted Mar. 21, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 278

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RE: General opinion of the book

I liked the book a lot and have recommended it to my book club. I found her attachment to her husband understandable in the beginning but as she got less and less of what she needed in the marriage, I wished she could have left. I learned a lot about crows that I didn't know and I think I understood why the author used them. I always like novels where people live a full life, by that I mean go from being young to old, so really enjoyed her looking back on her life. I also liked some of the close bonds that were formed. I do think the Los Alamos project probably contributed more to the bane of the book than the story, as the events could have really occurred in any of the more isolated areas of the country during that time period.


Posted Mar. 22, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
maribethr

Join Date: 10/29/14

Posts: 16

A Book to Savor

Meridian's story will resonate with many women who grew up/were educated/began their careers in the 40's, 50's and 60's. Her situation reminded me of a concept from Sociology called "the marginal man." Although this concept related to race and ethnicity, the definition still seems to apply here: " the concept explains how an individual suspended between two cultural realities may struggle to establish his or her identity." Meridian seemed to have one foot in one reality that said she should put aside her own ambitions and desires and accept her role as a housewife, and her other foot in a society beginning to embrace a new reality for women. The book made me empathize with her struggle to establish her own identity while still trying to stay true to the vows she had taken as wife to Alden. The beautiful descriptions of the life of her beloved crows, along with the descriptions of the lives and habits of other creatures from the bird world, added a great deal to the story and created an opportunity to think about how our human and animal worlds have many parallels. This inclusion of animal lives reminded me of Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh, and Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult, both great reads. This book is definitely a two thumbs up and should be high on the list of recommendations for book clubs that treasure a volume with lots of meat for discussion.


Posted Mar. 22, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbm

Join Date: 02/04/16

Posts: 73

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RE: General opinion of the book

I absolutely cherish this book. The historical context and well-drawn characters set the stage for thought-provoking questions about all woman's search for identity, the marital relationship, the meaning of sexuality. I agree that the parallel study of crows added depth to her cultural struggles and it brought a certain poetic beauty to the story. It's a tale that made me laugh, forced my heart to break considering my own mother's path, and challenged me to be a woman of faith and courage. It gives the term 'old crow' an entirely new meaning to me.
I found Church's writing style exquisite! "I felt time slow to a crawl, felt myself enter the minutes, the seconds, expand into the present as if it were infinite."


Posted Mar. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kbschaffer

Join Date: 03/20/17

Posts: 8

RE: General opinion of the book

Maribethr, your overview of the book was extraordinary. The discussion of "the marginal man" brought an important element to understanding the search for identity that describes many women's experience. Thank you for your insights.


Posted Mar. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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donnac

Join Date: 03/26/14

Posts: 126

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RE: General opinion of the book

I have to say i really enjoyed this book. Though not a contemporary of Meridian I am old enough to appreciate most of her experiences as a woman. I also liked Ms Curch's writing style. The book just seemed to breeze along and before I knew it I had finished it.

I'm also enjoying the terrific insights all are sharing in this discussion. Keep up the great work! What I am wondering is whether there are any men in our group? If so, please step forward and share your impressions.


Posted Mar. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyh

Join Date: 01/23/15

Posts: 69

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RE: General opinion of the book

Loved this book. In parts its my story too


Posted Mar. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
louisee

Join Date: 06/29/15

Posts: 72

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RE: General opinion of the book

I enjoyed the book until the end where Meridian sent her journals to Clay. I don't understand why she didn't give them to Marvelle. I didn't always agree with her choices but could understand them based on the times she was living, the same time my mom was living as well. She could have gone back to college after Alden died, like my mom did when she was in her fifties. I enjoyed learning about a different bird at the beginning of each chapter and tried to figure out the connection to the chapter. I am also recommending it to my book club, there is much to discuss.


Posted Mar. 24, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Violetta

Join Date: 06/10/11

Posts: 12

RE: General opinion of the book

I was absorbed with the book at the very beginning but got frustrated at times with Meridian when she was bored in Los Alamos. I understand why she felt she gave up her career but so many of us in that generation did and yet I went on to get my degree, my masters and pursued many careers long after I "gave" up my early ambitions in the sixties by getting married and getting a PHT (what we called it when we worked while our husbands went to college--putting hubby thru) The book aroused a lot of feelings in me and I think that is the sign of a good book--when it makes us reflect on our own lives and decisions.


Posted Mar. 24, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 76

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RE: General opinion of the book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I typically enjoy historical fiction so this was interesting from that regard, and I thought the chapter titles were clever. While I was sometimes frustrated by Meridian's decisions, they were in keeping with that time period. Thankfully a few things have changed since then.


Posted Mar. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jodyp

Join Date: 11/09/16

Posts: 10

RE: General opinion of the book

louisee, I too thought she would have given the journals to Marvella. I was OK with her sending them to Clay after seeing what he named his daughters.


Posted Mar. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jodyp

Join Date: 11/09/16

Posts: 10

RE: General opinion of the book

I finished reading this book at 4am. I could not put it down. I was so sad when Belle died and knew there had to be another friend coming into the novel. Clay was a surprise. How wonderful for Meridian. No one should die without knowing good sex. I loved how Emma and Meridian's friendship developed. I will watch for this author.


Posted Mar. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolt

Join Date: 03/25/17

Posts: 7

RE: General opinion of the book

Meridian is so well drawn that I still find it hard to believe she was not a real person and this is not a biography. Since she would be a contemporary of my mother, it gave me some insight into Mom.


Posted Mar. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
suelizbeth

Join Date: 01/15/17

Posts: 12

RE: General opinion of the book

I loved the book, although, at times, it was maddening. I wanted so much for Meridian to assert her independence at so many different times, but she could not have accomplished what she did in the end without having gone through everything else. I think this book is a positive, feminist portrayal of a woman who grew into herself, into her strength, into her life's work. I don't think that she would have been satisfied with only being an ornithologist. She was able to discover so many of her talents with the help of all of the different people that came and went in her life. They were with her during certain times of her life and were pertinent to those particular times. Belle brought out her rebellious side but then she needed to move beyond that and Belle was gone. Clay brought out her sensual side but then she needed to move beyond that and Clay was gone. In the end, Alden brought out her compassionate devotion and eventually allowed all of her sides to coalesce. Without her experiences, she would not have been able to fight for herself after Alden died and achieve the things that she wanted and to escape what he wanted.


Posted Mar. 26, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barb23703

Join Date: 10/04/15

Posts: 53

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RE: General opinion of the book

I enjoyed the book, but at times found it very frustrating. I felt that Meri was inconsistent to the personality that l thought the author was developing, and then changes occurred to move the story along (but perhaps this is the process of writing a novel?) By this I mean it felt like the story turned sharp corners to achieve a plot rather than develop through depth of character construction. I felt the relationship with Clay was clunky and uncomfortable - there was sex and criticism, gifts and fights, acceptance and rejection, but no real development of a character in Clay that would help me understand why she loved him or more to the point, why he loved her. He was young, beautiful, intelligent and damaged - but in many ways he was Alden. He told her how to feel, who and how to accept when his friends showed up, when to take his dog into her husband's home, when to leave and how to do it - really?


Posted Mar. 26, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbm

Join Date: 02/04/16

Posts: 73

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RE: General opinion of the book

Barb! Excellent insight on Meri-Clay! I had not seen that! wow kinda changes my opinion of her!


Posted Mar. 26, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
maribethr

Join Date: 10/29/14

Posts: 16

RE: General opinion of the book

Good insight, Barb. Thanks for something new to think about.


Posted Mar. 27, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
charleneds

Join Date: 03/21/17

Posts: 10

RE: General opinion of the book

I was surprised at how much I grew to love this book and Meridian's character. I thought it was an excellent portrayal of a woman's life during those time periods - being held back in her career, expected to be a housewife when it didn't fit her personality and what she thought her life should be, not fitting in with the other women, her friendships, her loves and the finally reaching maturity and coming in to her own and living a life with purpose.


Posted Mar. 27, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
charleneds

Join Date: 03/21/17

Posts: 10

RE: General opinion of the book

I agree with Violetta that this book aroused a lot of feelings and brought back memories about what it was like to live during much of this time period. I identified with Meridian in many ways.


Posted Mar. 27, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroln

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 48

RE: General opinion of the book

I am also grateful for Barb's insight to Meridian/Clay relationship - had not thought about in that way. Now however, I am more sadden about her life - she was directed by two men in her life and that truly is SAD!


Posted Mar. 27, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Rosieglitter

Join Date: 10/16/16

Posts: 27

RE: General opinion of the book

I really enjoyed this book. I related to Meridian's dilemma between love and pursuing a career. It was not surprising that she fell in love with Alden's intellect and then felt trapped by this same characteristic in her husband. Her friendship with Belle was heartwarming and rang true of a close female relationship. Her affair with Clay felt like an escape from the boredom of her life. He was someone who listened to her passion for the crows and made her feel like an interesting, desirable woman again. Los Alamos feels like another character in this book. It's remote location and the secretive work being done there add to the loneliness and isolation of Meridian. I have recommended this book to my book club.


Posted Mar. 29, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynnw

Join Date: 09/01/11

Posts: 129

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RE: General opinion of the book

It took a bit to get into it and then I loved it. I might not have done everything she did, but I certainly could understand the reasons for her actions. I don't think I could have stayed with Alden and given up my life for his. Clay could also be overbearing, but Meridian is much stronger with him. She left when his friends took over his home and she chose to stay in New Mexico after Alden died. In the end she did something strong and kind with her foundation.


Posted Mar. 29, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Tired Bookreader

Join Date: 08/19/11

Posts: 83

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RE: General opinion of the book

A very enjoyable read. It's nice to have a story beginning to end with a running theme...the weight of all aspects of our lives. Elizabeth Church created a wonderful essay on not just love by different generations, it also covered the internal struggles of a woman in previous eras and the personal sacrifices they were expected to make. Their selfless efforts helped families be strong, but at what cost. I believe men stayed ignorant to avoid their wives personal issues.


Posted Mar. 30, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 180

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RE: General opinion of the book

Excellent points by maribethr ("marginal man") and barb23703 (Clay was just another Alden). Meri truly was standing at a crossroads regarding the role of women, and in particular with how regard to how to modernize relationships with men.


Posted Mar. 30, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 203

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RE: General opinion of the book

In one word awesome!! It was a perfect snapshot of the era, lots of historical events and a lesson on crows. I think it would it would make for a great book club discussion and have recommended it to mine.


Posted Mar. 30, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
poniesnpearls

Join Date: 06/28/11

Posts: 30

RE: General opinion of the book

Overall liked it. Relationships can be hard... Meri couldn't be who she wanted to be and Alden was oblivious that he was crushing her. I often say about relationships - be aware of what initially attracts you because those same things may eventually repel you.


Posted Mar. 31, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
charleneds

Join Date: 03/21/17

Posts: 10

RE: General opinion of the book

I agree with poniesnpearls post. I thought when I was reading this book - who you love in your 20's doesn't always work as you age. We are attracted to different things at different stages in our lives. It's hard to stay married - I thought she really worked at staying married - especially in the end when she stayed with him. I felt it was the right thing to do - she saw it through to the end. She made a promise and kept it and I loved that about her.


Posted Mar. 31, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Peggy H

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 188

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RE: General opinion of the book

After a slow start I was drawn into the book and the characters. Growing up in that era I could see wives of the time. Were not the wives of astronauts similar in support of their husbands? Remember this too was the time of the women mathematicians who worked on the space program. I too wondered about Meri sending the journals to Clay, but then wondered if he would share them with his own daughter. I look forward to sharing the book with people in my nook group and hearing their response.


Pegh
Posted Apr. 02, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Navy Mom

Join Date: 04/12/12

Posts: 192

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RE: General opinion of the book

At first, Meridian's choices rankled me and I just wanted to shake her up. She was losing herself and it made me mad, but as she changed and grew, I really liked her and thought she was so real. I had tears at the end of the book. The ending was satisfying. I was so impressed that she and Clay still had a connection but didn't ever get back together. I loved the book.


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