Reader reviews and comments on The Atomic Weight of Love, plus links to write your own review.

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Atomic Weight of Love

by Elizabeth Church

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2017, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

Buy This Book

Reviews

Page 1 of 1
There are currently 7 reader reviews for The Atomic Weight of Love
Order Reviews by:

Write your own review!

Sharon

Stunningly and hauntingly written...I love this book so much
On Meri's 10th birthday her father gives her a book, 'The Burgess Bird Book for Children'. For her 11th birthday he gives her, Darwin's 'On The Origin of the Species'. Six months later her father dies leaving both Meri and her mother utterly devastated.
At 17 years old Meri leaves her hometown of Pennsylvania and attends Chicago University with a fierce ambition to earn an advanced degree in ornithology. She sits in on one of Professor Whetstone's physics lectures and is completely smitten by this man old enough to be her father. This is what she says about seeing him at that first lecture, ' I was in awe of Alden. I could only sense the very fringes of concepts that his intellect grasped with such easy, ready fingers. I worshipped his knowledge, his aloof independence and greater world experience. He was my teacher; he led me, and I followed gladly.' They embark on an affair fuelled, not by passion or lustful recklessness, but of joint admiration of intellectual minds. They marry and Alden takes her away to Los Alamos, New Mexico.

At the commencement of each chapter there are ornithological terms of reference which cleverly shadow Meri's experiences within the chapter they refer to.
The writing style is gently paced, and intelligent, with beautifully constructed sentences and phrases such as,"I watched the first snowfall begin as a light, dry powder and morph into those luscious, fat, lazy flakes that sashay downward and accumulate into weighty drifts." I fell immediately under the authors spell of words and eagerly devoured the pages of the book. In another poignantly beautifully written scene where the crows say farewell to one of their own, I cried as the loss and feeling of loneliness was utterly palpable and I truly believed I understood how Meri was feeling at that particular stage of her life.

The Atomic Weight of Love is primarily a love story written and voiced by Meri about the ever changing, evolving love she feels for Alden, and then in her 40's of her love for a much younger man. I found it in turns to be heartbreaking, and infuriating due to the out dated attitudes of the times, but above all an uplifting read. There is a bittersweet quality to the story and at times it simply broke my heart.

Elizabeth Church’s debut novel is an exquisite poignant tale of loyalty, trust and knowing when to let go. I truly hope there's a lot more to come from her as a writer. I'd recommend it for readers who love beautifully written literary historical fiction that will make them question their own sacrifices and accomplishments. I would also suggest it for book group readers as the multitude of topics raised throughout the book could generate some lively discussion.
BethAnne

A Woman's Growth
Meridian is a girl who matures into a woman using birds as relative comparisons of that growth. She is an innocent frustrating naïve character who makes you want to scream.
Tired Bookreader

Story of Life
This story still has remnants of truth when it comes to women sacrificing for the good of the family. The main character chooses her marriage and love of a disappointing man over possible achievement and true happiness. This decision happens every day. Well written with honesty by the author and frustration for the reader. Excellent!
CharleneDS

The Atomic Weight of Love
I was surprised how much I loved this book. I was sorry when it ended because I felt very connected to Meridian. I thought this was a very honest portrayal of a woman's life - especially for that time period. I lived through much of it myself and could totally identify with what she was going through. I'm passing this book along to friends with my highest recommendation.
PiperUp

Great Read
This one snuck up on me! I didn't realize how emotionally invested I was until I had tears in my eyes while reading the last chapter.
Each chapter is titled after a group of specific birds, "An Exaltation of Larks", "A Murder of Crows", etc. with a description of the type of bird & usually an example of the phrase being used in literature or the symbolism of the bird in mythology. It's an extremely clever device that foreshadows what will occur in each chapter & provides additional context information related to both the plot line & ornithology.
And...let's not forget the crows! I enjoyed reading about Meridian's studies of a murder of crows over the course of the years. Her studies are another clever plot device that enhanced the book. They're extremely social animals with a high level of intellect including extremely impressive memory & communication skills. I have both a fascination & a tiny fear of crows so I found Meridian's studies of crows to be quite captivating.
Julie F.

We all make choices....
I enjoyed this book. While the characters in the story are a bit one-dimensional, the relationships and interactions make the story come alive. Meri's naïveté, particularle after 20 years of marriage, doesn't match her intelligence. Yet the story reflects that all of us make choices, and often our choices have unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

I also enjoyed the science and history reflected throughout the book. While fictional, it is an educational and accurate portrayal.

I highly recommend this book for women's book clubs, as it will foster a lively and thoughtful discussion about the choices we all have made. The book is not appropriate for high school groups, due the several more graphic passage.

The book is now on my "recommended" list!
Davida Chazan

Devotion en masse
Meridian is very smart, and she wants to become an ornithologist, something very unusual for a girl growing up in post-WWI in America. With the support of her mother, and knowing she has the blessing of her late father she begins that journey. However, when she meets the brilliant lecturer Alden Whetstone and realizes she found her intellectual equal. After finishing her bachelor's degree, he convinces her to put off her graduate studies to follow him to his new top-secret job in Los Alamos, working to end the Second World War, through physics. With her life on hold, Meridian looks for meaning in her new surroundings.

On the surface, Meridian is the type of woman whose abilities, combined with an inner strength, are exactly what society at the time shunned. Her defiance of those norms wasn't very unusual, even for that time. However, even back then, people expected even educated women and their jobs to take a backseat to their husbands' careers. In this regard, when Meridian follows suit, we are not at all surprised. However, this was the first thing that disappointed me about this novel, even if being exceptional has somehow become the cliché in books of this sort.

Church tries to remedy this with Meridian's affair with a younger man later in life. With this part of her life, we get to know the passionate side of Meridian, and along with it, the coming-of-age realization of the depth of her regret for what she could have become. While this is heartening, here too we see a weakness in Meridian that we would certainly have preferred not to see. Of course, Church does this because otherwise, I don't think she thought that the ending of this book would have worked. Here too, I have to disagree to some extent, although not completely. The question is which is more of a cliché? A woman who knows she's repressing herself (or is a victim of repression), and stays in that situation anyway; or a woman who doesn't realize her potential until it is staring her in the face. In short, my feminist sensibilities tell me that Church didn't give me the kind of protagonist that I was looking for.

On the other hand, I also think that Church gave me exactly the type of character that was truly possible to imagine. Knowing this, you really can't help liking Meridian, mostly because Church's honest and open style makes her into a very sympathetic character. We do see where Meridian's rebellious side comes through, and we feel sorry for her when she can't take it just a little further. In my experience, when I see a character doing something I would have advised against, I usually get annoyed with the character (or the author). Not so here, where Church makes us see both sides of what Meridian is going through, and this makes us feel the same regrets that obviously Meridian is feeling. This isn't to say that Meridian is a pitiful character, since she does have enough small mutinies (and one very large one) to help us still admire her.

You can see my dilemma, can't you? While it seemed like Church sometimes allowed Meridian to take what seemed like the easy path, or at least the one most expected of women from her era, we also see that many of her decisions were fraught with difficult consequences. This dichotomy makes this book frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Not to mention the whole bird metaphor of their freedom that's closely observed, which despite the many references seemed a tenuous connection at best. Perhaps this is exactly what Church was going for, particularly if you think about this book's title.

Because of all this, I've been debating what star rating I should give this novel. I certainly want to recommend it, especially because I found Church's style to be inviting and compelling. However, in all honesty, because of my mixed feelings about Meridian, I'm unable to give it more than three and a half stars.

(This is a copy of my review that appeared on my personal blog The Chocolate Lady's Book Reviews.)
  • Page
  • 1

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Gypsy Moth Summer
    by Julia Fierro

    One of the most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.