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If you are looking for the definitive historical text on the Los Alamos, New Mexico site where nuclear physicists famously built the first atomic bomb, stay on the bus because this is not your stop. TaraShea Nesbit's novel about the wives of the Manhattan Project scientists is a lot of things, but factually informative isn't one of them.

That doesn't mean it's not worth reading—it is, as long as you don't go in expecting it to be something it's not. 

First of all, it's a novel, meaning fiction. Thus, the book is more an artistic interpretation of a strange and unprecedented time in people's lives than it is a factual recounting of history. Nesbit writes in the first-person plural, a choice that seems a little gimmicky at first, but it allows her to evoke the unique experiences of each woman while demonstrating how unified the wives were in their isolation and curiosity despite their vast differences. It took a little time to get used to the plural voice, though I found my distraction faded by about page 30.

Even though she consciously chooses to fictionalize the wives' stories, Nesbit's description of their troubles and travails has the ring of authenticity. She describes the minutiae of their daily lives, from doing laundry without machines to cooking with coal-fired stoves to raising children virtually alone while their husbands worked. Their letters home were heavily censored, and even if they hadn't been, most of the women had no idea what their husbands were working on in the lab. Their lives were simultaneously crushingly mundane and cloaked in secrecy.

Nesbit has clearly done a lot of research, and if you're already familiar with the basics of the history of the Project, you'll recognize details as she weaves them in. However, if you don't have much context, those allusions will likely glide right over your head. This book will be most enjoyable to those who already have a working knowledge of the Project and its key players.

For this reason, I highly recommend pairing this book with The Girls of Atomic City, which I wrote about last week. Both are supremely engaging, and they complement each other perfectly with their contrasting formats. You might, like me, find yourself so absorbed in the ethical ambiguity and complex science of atomic history that you seek out other books on the topic. (This one recently caught my eye.)