This is a stupendous first novel, which I devoured in a weekend. It’s sort of a women’s lib story, from the middle of World War II, going on through the 1950’s and 60’s to the present. Meridian is a budding ornithologist and on track to graduate with a Ph.D., when she falls in love with her College Professor, who is twenty years older than her. Alden is a physicist, who when the U.S. enters the war, is asked to join a hush hush project in the middle of the New Mexico desert.
Meridian agrees to put off accepting entrance to a prestigious university for one year. They marry and she follows Alden to Los Alamos. Meridian decides to start her ornithological research on crows, preparing for her Master’s degree thesis, and attempts to find fulfilment in all manner of projects to keep herself busy, while she waits for the opportunity to continue with her own life plan and further education.
Inevitably, Alden’s work on the production of the first atomic bomb, and after that the set-up of the Atomic Energy Commission mean Meri’s plans are deferred and deferred until she reluctantly accepts that her dream of becoming a world class ornithologist is not going to happen. Her frustrations, and lack of freedom to pursue her own goals are shared by many of the highly educated wives stuck in Los Alamos.
Then, at the age of forty-six, something quite wonderful happens, which utterly transforms her contented and purposeful life.
I loved this book. I loved Meridian’s ballsy reactions to the expectations of a stifling society, and I absolutely loved her descriptions of the crows.
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