The book begins with a series of queries about what might have happened to these inhabitants of Los Alamos before they abandoned their prior homes to follow their husbands to an unknown place. They had no idea what to expect and the author makes the reader aware of what questions or feelings they might have had at that time. The possible scenarios that caused these women to leave their homes and follow their husbands to unknown destinations is presented with many options, with humor and also a lightness that pervades the entire book, although their journey was of the utmost importance and was of a very serious nature.
The style of the author, using what has been described as first person plural, is off-putting to some, but I don’t think the author could have accomplished as much as she did with traditional prose. Using short sentences, which came in quick bursts, she opened a window up onto an unreal desert scene where each of the different kinds of people came with their families, or alone, in the service of their country. She was able to accurately describe an incredible, unusual experience that once took place in a remote, undeveloped area of New Mexico. It was a different time and the women of Los Alamos, as was the custom, simply followed their husbands, asked few questions, and continued to perform their household duties and to assume the responsibility of raising the family, even in this secret, isolated place. Forbidden to reveal where they were or to tell what their husbands were working on to their friends and family, they somehow created a thriving community and survived from 1943 until sometime after the war’s end. Although they were not privy to the secret experiments or goings-on, they surmised some information on their own as they gossiped among themselves.
Using a pattern of staccato thoughts, coming from the collective “I”, the author has managed to illustrate exactly what occurred in Los Alamos from the basic emotions of each inhabitant to the intellectual desert the wives occupied as they witnessed the veritable cornucopia of opportunity for their men. Every nuance of their relationships is exposed in these seemingly random thoughts occurring on each page.
It is a very quick read as the story jumps along, literally. Each paragraph imparted a message which almost jutted across the page too fast to capture. The effect of this very serious research with world changing implications, wore on each family, man, woman and child, in different ways and they each handled it in their own individual way. They had been traumatically cut off from all prior relationships and had to create new avenues of release. Until they abandoned their new community, at war’s end, to return to their former lives, they did not realize how much all of the relationships they had made there, meant to them. They became family to each other for lack of family of their own and they weathered every storm that came their way, most often, with grace and patience, although there were the moments of pettiness that often erupts in very close quarters. This was a good read.