Meridian Wallace is a brilliant student studying to be an ornithologist when she meets a physics professor and falls in love. Early in their relationship, he moves to the remote southwest to work on a top secret project. Putting her dreams on hold, she follows him and takes on the traditional role of wife, not scientist. As she feels her dreams slipping away and herself fading into the background, she meets a young hippie, a Vietnam veteran who changes her life.
Spanning decades, The Atomic Weight of Love is the tale of one woman’s both ordinary and extraordinary life. From atomic bombs to a failing marriage to the lives of crows, Meridian’s story is a pleasure to read. Comparable to The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel is a moving, science-minded tale of the roles women were relegated to in midcentury America, yet it doesn’t get bogged down in it.
I struggled with some aspects of the novel, mainly Meridian’s early relationship with the professor, but it didn’t deter my experience. The marriage itself wasn’t the focus for me, instead it was Meridian’s life and how she coped with it. The development of the not quite believable relationship became secondary. To be specific, I did not understand her motives for marrying him. She didn’t seem to be particularly in love with him, she found his dispassionate nature could be irritating.
The single careful gesture – the controlled placement of his pants. It told me something I refused to acknowledge: Alden would always be too careful. There would be no transport for me, not with a man who was that precise in the face of impending passion.
I do understand love makes us do crazy things, but for me, given she was as intense as she was about her studies, for her to abandon them was surprising. At the same time, given the time and place, maybe it’s not. Overall, The Atomic Weight of Love is a fascinating read. Don’t let my few mild reservations deter you, I did enjoy it. I will certainly look for what the author does next, especially if in incorporates science and women.
Meridian, upon seeing Alden off, buys herself a medicinal chocolate malt shake at Fred Harvey’s. I happen to agree, chocolate has amazingly restorative powers. Head over to Love from the Oven to find out how to make this delicious (three ingredient!) shake.