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I first loved him because he taught me the flight of a bird, precisely how it happens, how it is possible. Lift. Wing structure and shape, the concepts of wing loading, drag, thrust. The perfectly allotted tasks of each differently shaped feather. The hollowness of bones to reduce weight, to overcome gravity. I was too young to realize that what I really yearned to know was why birds take flight— and why, sometimes, they refuse.
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church examines the delicate balance between love and duty and the multitude of ways each is present throughout life. Meridian is an intelligent woman whose love for birds transcended all other things in her early life.
That’s where my career as an ornithologist began— at the dinner table, beside the train tracks, in the late-night hours while my parents slept and I read lying in the empty bathtub. When I found a dead goldfinch on the walk home from school, my father applied the balm of Darwin to my broken heart.
As she grows she becomes more desperate to solidify her place in academia. She sets out to study ornithology- a field in the sciences that is, like most, male dominated, during a time that women are still the large minority in the universities.
The whole enterprise was far bolder than I. I concealed fears: near-certainty of my dire lack of qualifications and absolute certainty of my inability to fit in. The first day of classes, I rushed between buildings, the heavy, costly textbooks in the book bag bouncing off of my hip. In a gloomy, bell-jar-lined classroom in the zoology building, I sat near the front and watched men— all men— file in to join me. A few of them met my eyes, smiled tentatively. I saw clean-shaven cheeks and starched shirts, hastily tied Windsor knots. Some nodded, but none sat next to me.
As she struggles to find her place, she finds solace in a romance between a renowned physic’s professor, Alden Whetstone. Her growing love for him helps to spark the topic for the final project of her academic career.
I knew my master’s thesis would be on crow behavior, the social aspects of the bird, but I also knew I needed to hone in on a narrower aspect of their social lives. I longed to know how, when, and why they formed allegiances and if those bonds crossed familial boundaries. I wanted to understand loyalty— to know if it derived solely from evolutionary advantage, or if it might also be motivated by something else, something akin to caring, love, and devotion.
Like her crows, when Alden is dispatched to Los Alamos, New Mexico for a top secret project (what is known to us now as the construction of the Atomic Bomb), Meri loyally follows her husband- giving up her studies, her degree and her dreams.
Men do. Women make do. We wait, patient Penelope at the hearth. We conform, good girls in girdles. We serve, suppressed sighs growing stale. We meld with oblivion, Flying ever in his slipstream.
Resentment and discontent slowly erode the foundation of Meridian and Alden’s love. The pressure and weight of the truth behind Alden’s work drive him deeper into his science while pushing Meri away because she so desperately wants to have a place in her community both scientific or otherwise.
In the gloom I heard his breath deepen, watched his shoulders release their tension. He’d said his piece at long last, and now he could relax. For me, any chance of sleep had vanished, and so I took my book, a blanket, and a pillow into the bathroom and climbed into the empty tub, just as I had when I was a girl. The hard sides of the bathtub seemed an appropriate place for me to lay my body that night— unforgiving and nonmalleable. I couldn’t concentrate, though. Finally, I pulled a hand towel from the rack, bit down on it, and used it to muffle my sobs. I let my shoulders spasm, felt the muscles of my lower back tighten into fists of pain.
To fill the void left by Alden’s rejections Meri embarks on an attempt to rediscover her love for birds in the desert of New Mexico. She finds a lone group of crows and throws herself wholeheartedly into their study. In the desert she discovers more than just her love for ornithology- she finds her youth and sexuality in a young war veteran, Clay.
Nestled against Clay’s naked body and drifting off to sleep that night, I thought about what Clay had told me about geologic rifts. That they were the earth pulling apart, like wounds opening. I wondered at the depth and mystery of it, a crack in the earth, in myself. Part of me recognized it as a potentially dangerous breach of my skin; another part of me relished the possibility for change that it posed, the powerful forces at work.
A poignant examination of family and the expectations therein The Atomic Weight of Love takes all the nuances of marriage, infidelity, feminism and self-worth in the 1940s and beyond and puts them under the microscope to be examined with true finesse and depth.
As I watched him, I wondered how many times a heart can heal. Are we allotted a specific number of comebacks from heartbreak? Or is that what really kills us, in the end— not strokes or cancer or pneumonia— but instead just one too many blows to the heart? Doctors talk of “cardiac insults”— such a perfect turn of phrase— but they know nothing of the heart, not truly.
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A review copy of this title was provided by HarperCollins via Netgalley.
There was a blast on the ship’s siren. We were going— together— to somewhere where no one would measure our heads or noses, or compare the texture of our hair, or classify the color of our eyes. We were going to the island you drew in the muddy water of a city to which we would never return.
Hannah is a Jewish girl growing up in Germany at the onset of Hitler’s reign. When the exile begins she struggles to understand what it means to have your personhood defined, measured and ranked.
In the end, I knew that however much I washed, burned my skin, cut my hair, gouged out my eyes, turned deaf, however much I dressed or talked differently, or took on a different name, they would always see me as impure.
As things escalate, Hannah begins to learn the true nature of the grave situation she is in.
The cleansing had begun in Berlin, the dirtiest city in Europe. Powerful jets of water were about to start drenching us until we were clean. They didn’t like us. Nobody liked us.
Fortunately, Hannah’s family has means and they secure passage to find asylum in Cuba- an exotic, unknown land.
We would start from scratch and make Khuba into an ideal country, where anybody could be blond or dark haired, tall or short, fat or thin. Where you could buy a newspaper, use the telephone, speak whatever language you wished and call yourself whatever you wanted to without bothering about the color of your skin or which God you worshipped. In our watery maps, at least, Khuba already existed.
However, safety is fleeting and Hannah soon finds herself amidst an unsure future aboard the St. Louis.
We were a wretched mass of fleeing people who had been kicked out of our homes.
Juxtaposed with Hannah’s story is that of Anna, another young girl and descendant of Hannah who is also looking to understand what the future holds- but she must look first into the past.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I see Dad in Berlin, Havana, New York. I’m German. This is my family, forced to call themselves Sarah and Israel, whose businesses were destroyed. The family that fled, that survived. This is where I come from.
The German Girl is a sweeping tale of the controversial and largely unknown voyage of a ship meant as a safe haven for Jewish German citizens which turned out to be something worse.
Until now, in Cuba, the tragedy of the St. Louis has been a topic absent from classrooms and history books. All the documents related to the arrival of the ship in Havana and the negotiations with Federico Laredo Brú’s government and Fulgencio Batista have disappeared from the Cuban National Archive.
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A review copy of this title was provided by Atria Books via Netgalley
Turn the knob and push the door open, I told myself. You can do this. Crossing this threshold is nothing new. You have passed over the supposedly insurmountable divide between male and female in countless classrooms before. And always succeeded.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict tells the story of Mileva Maric, an intelligent woman who was amongst other pioneers for women in science. At a time when education for women was rare, Mileva, better known as Mitza, set out to accomplish a great deal.
I walked a fine line between my insistence on this untrodden path and the conformity still demanded of me.
Mitza set her sights on the boys club of physics. Her study at university proves to be enlightening in a variety of ways.
The world of physics was where I belonged. Embedded in its secretive rules about the workings of the world— hidden forces and unseen causal relationships so complex that I believed only God could have created them— were answers to the greatest questions about our existence. If only I could uncover them.
Struggling throughout her life for acceptance, Mitza finds it in the women at her boarding house who are of the same caliber. She finds it also in one man, a fellow physics student, Albert Einstein.
My feelings were more complex; I felt alive in Mr. Einstein’s company, understood and accepted.The sensation was unique and unsettling.
Mitza is forced to battle between her studies and the role forced upon her as a marriagable woman by the society she inhabits. Her choice is difficult and and times nearly impossible.
Suppressed over the past year, my feelings for Mr. Einstein hadn’t disappeared. If anything, they had grown. Sometimes, I wondered whether maintaining my friendship with Mr. Einstein was folly, whether it ignited emotions I should be dampening. But I had chosen my physics path, and he sat firmly upon it, I reminded myself for the hundredth time that day alone. I couldn’t very well ignore him; after all, he was my lab partner.
Mitza and Albert create a life together that is built on their shared love of physics but can it outlast the struggle for success and against the strains of conventional society?
Dripping with feminist undertones, The Other Einstein is a heartbreaking story of one woman’s swim against a current of obstacles.
Read Voraciously .
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A review copy of this title was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley
I just had a small out of body experience when I realized just how many people care about my little blog. Current follower count is 558 and I only know one in real life! Thank you all for your ongoing support and interest. I hope I can continue to provide relevent and informative reviews and other posts. Here is a quick update of what I am reading/listening to and some exciting news.
First, I was recently invited to participate in a blog tour for the incredible story The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. She will be sharing a guest post in the morning. In the meanwhile, I am diligently working to review the novel and will hopefully post about it soon. If you haven’t already picked it up I highly recommend it!
I am also preparing to review the following:
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin
I’ve been lucky to have read to many fantastic stories recently (really…always). I have been spending some personal time listening to audio books and here are a few of my favorites:
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Pretty Baby and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I also took two personal reading breaks for The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman and The Fireman by Joe Hill both of which I loved.
Last but certainly not least my husband and I will be visiting London in a week for a week! Sans our kiddo for our 5th wedding anniversary among other things. All you Londoners don’t hesitate to offer your best advice! I am hoping to get a large amount of writing done on the flights as well as blog a bit about our travels. I can’t wait!
What are you reading/listening to/looking forward to?
P.S. Fantasy football is NOT going well this season. Cannot seem to nail down a solid performance.
Cozy Reader Club is a monthly subscription box which caters to readers who love to snuggle up on the couch or in a bubble bath with a good book, a sweet snack and a warm cup of something to drink. Busy moms, moms-to-be, any woman with a busy life- this is the box for you!
The subscription costs $64.95 per month and it is well worth it! Here is a break down of each item included in the October box:
I love fall and it is the absolutely perfect season for Cozy Reader Club !
A hard-cover copy of Jodi Picoult’s newest novel Small Great Things- $28.99
I was desperately hoping to see this novel included in this month’s subscription. Take a moment to read my full review here to see why.
Three Hot Chocolate Sticks from Ticket Chocolate- $15.00
In flavors of white chocolate spiced apple cider, dark chocolate hazelnut and milk chocolate pumpkin spice these melt-able, stir-able delights will warm up even the coldest of days.
Packet of gourmet marshmallows- $7.00
Sweet Lydia’s provides the perfect accompaniment to the hot chocolate mentioned above- in pumpkin spice flavor, of course.
Beautiful fall inspired bookmark from Zeke’s Safari- $12.95
Fall leaf print with beaded, pumpkin and leaf charms.
Knit Headband- $18.00
The perfect fall accessory- hand knit from Jacki Bean.
Artisanal Caramel Popcorn- $5.00
Hand made by CC Made. Delectable!
I am thoroughly pleased with the content and quality of this box. It is a great counterpart the the plethora of young adult reading subscription boxes. Check out their Instagram account @cozyreaderclub or order your box today http://www.cozyreader.club
Join now and vote for the November book inclusion.
This box was purchased by me and no compensation was provided by the company for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.