In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife and Loving Frank, this resonant debut spans the years from World War II through the Vietnam War to tell the story of a woman whose scientific ambition is caught up in her relationships with two very different men.
For Meridian Wallace - and many other smart, driven women of the 1940s - being ambitious meant being an outlier. Ever since she was a young girl, Meridian had been obsessed with birds, and she was determined to get her PhD, become an ornithologist, and make her mother's sacrifices to send her to college pay off. But she didn't expect to fall in love with her brilliant physics professor, Alden Whetstone. When he's recruited to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to take part in a mysterious wartime project, she reluctantly defers her own plans and joins him.
What began as an exciting intellectual partnership devolves into a "traditional" marriage. And while the life of a housewife quickly proves stifling, it's not until years later, when Meridian meets a Vietnam veteran who opens her eyes to how the world is changing, that she realizes just how much she has given up. The repercussions of choosing a different path, though, may be too heavy a burden to bear.
Elizabeth Church's stirring debut novel about ambition, identity, and sacrifice will ring true to every woman who has had to make the impossible choice between who she is and who circumstances demand her to be.
The Atomic Weight of Love
Flight requires defiance of gravity and is really, when you think about it, a bold act."
The professor at the front of the lecture hall paused for dramatic effect, but as far as I could see, I was the only fully engrossed member of the audience. I wasn't enrolled in the class but had instead taken a seat at another professor's suggestion. I was enraptured not only because I felt I was looking at a wild man someone whose long, tussled hair intimated that he had rushed in from a hike along some windblown cliff to lecture to a bunch of physics students but more so because I knew he could explain mysteries to me, decipher Newton and the others and render them comprehensible on a practical level. My expectations were high, and Alden Whetstone met them.
"We think about vertebrate flight as falling into four categories: parachuting, gliding, actual flight, and soaring. If a bird can soar, generally speaking, it can also perform the ...
Some of the recent comments posted about The Atomic Weight of Love. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.
A Murder of Crows, etc.
I looked forward to the headings not only because they foreshadowed, but also because they underscored the bird theme, giving another dimension to the story. They were charming! - barbm
Compare and contrast the gifts Meridian receives from Alden and from Clay.
Let me preface my answer. I liked Clay and didn't particularly like Alden. Gaudy jewelry and crock pots are not my idea of great gifts from someone who loves me. I'm sure Alden was doing his best. I would melt if my husband of 40 years gave me a book... - jodyp
Did Alden love Meridian? Did Meridian love Alden? How do you know? Did she make the right decision?
I think Alden and Meridian loved each other. I just think that Meridian got married too young and didn't have a clear picture of marriage. She was still learning about herself. Alden was set in his ways with no flexibilty. She later realized this ... - louisee
Discuss Meridian's friendships with Belle and Emma. How do women's friendships illuminate their lives differently than the friendships between men?
I loved Meridian's friendship with Belle because it allowed her to escape the controlled life she had with Alden. While the alcohol fueled part of her rebellion, Belle reenergized Meridian and allowed her to think of herself as more than a housewife... - andreab
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 ... - suelizbeth
Church has a deep understanding of how marriage works: its constant sacrifices and compromises, and how much we can define ourselves by and depend on our partners. Passages recounting the everyday dilemmas and conversations of a marriage feel very true to life. This would make an excellent book club read. There is so much to think about and discuss – especially relationships, women's rights, and moral decisions.
(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).
In Elizabeth Church's debut novel, The Atomic Weight of Love, Meridian Wallace studies crow behavior over the course of decades. The Corvid family – which includes crows, rooks, magpies, ravens, and jays – is often considered to have the highest intelligence and most remarkable habits in the bird world. Here are some facts that help explain Meri's fascination:
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