In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife and Loving Frank, this resonant debut spans the years from World War II through the Vietnam War to tell the story of a woman whose scientific ambition is caught up in her relationships with two very different men.
For Meridian Wallace - and many other smart, driven women of the 1940s - being ambitious meant being an outlier. Ever since she was a young girl, Meridian had been obsessed with birds, and she was determined to get her PhD, become an ornithologist, and make her mother's sacrifices to send her to college pay off. But she didn't expect to fall in love with her brilliant physics professor, Alden Whetstone. When he's recruited to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to take part in a mysterious wartime project, she reluctantly defers her own plans and joins him.
What began as an exciting intellectual partnership devolves into a "traditional" marriage. And while the life of a housewife quickly proves stifling, it's not until years later, when Meridian meets a Vietnam veteran who opens her eyes to how the world is changing, that she realizes just how much she has given up. The repercussions of choosing a different path, though, may be too heavy a burden to bear.
Elizabeth Church's stirring debut novel about ambition, identity, and sacrifice will ring true to every woman who has had to make the impossible choice between who she is and who circumstances demand her to be.
©2016 Elizabeth J. Church (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"Oh, what an incandescent debut.... Church follows one extraordinary woman who is brave enough to challenge the times, take defiant wing, and chart her own extraordinary flight path.... I never wanted the story to end." (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times best-selling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You)
"[Narrator Jennifer] Van Dyck voices Meridian with depth, articulating her dazzling intelligence and delicately revealing her growing identity as she finally pursues her own passions. Van Dyck also has the knack for convincingly distinguishing each character." (AudioFile magazine)
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"Overcoming a lonely life."
Yes. Good coverage of an historical period. And useful insights into the challenges of marriage (and relationship) throughout time. Afterall, it was not only in the 1950s that individuals found themselves very lonely despite the fact that they were married.
I did not enjoy the narration. I suppose the "old lady" voice is a legitimate conceit but I found it wearying and joyless.
Had so much potential for a unique interesting story - the first half was exactly that, with excellent narration . Then it took a wrong turn and became a long winded predictable, frustrating piece of "chick lit"- with another author that just had to add a bit of animal cruelty such as a bird being shot with a bee-bee gun even though it added nothing to the story. Turned out to be a waste of many hours.
"The power of observation"
Out of decades of observing crows, a highly intelligent woman comes to understand love both within and beyond marriage. Importantly, she evolves to see her abilities quite beyond her first five decades, becoming mentor, feminist and writer. One of the best listens of the year.
"This writer has been there"
This is the best novel I've read in a very long time. The author aptly describes the situation intelligent, educated women who married found themselves in not so long ago: stifled, patronized, lonely and angry. This story could have been mine. How this bright woman fought her way out of subjugation to a brilliant, but flawed, man and a society that believed women were nothing but home makers, is a great story. The book is intelligent, literary, and accessible.
The narration was superb, but I found the main character's story painfully depressing, through and through.
"Mid 20th century women and sacrifice"
The best book on women, freedom, commitment...and the changes life puts us all through. Told by a woman who could be one of our aunts, teachers, or friends. An eye into the atomic bomb for those who think it all evil, and the Vietnam war from youthful perspective. Your heart will fall in love with Meridian!
"Women's Lib Comes to the New Mexico Desert"
A cross section of seven decades as experienced by a woman living at Los Alamos. The description of the desert, the geology, the Indian history, and the crows that Meridian is studying is poetic. This is set against the harshness of the creation of the atomic bomb and the results in regard to WWII and ensuing wars. Meridian is a strong intelligent woman with a wry sense of humor throughout but she really finds her identity as the 1970's and Women's Liberation enter her world. I wish I could write as well as Elizabeth Church since this review really does not do the book justice but this novel deserves more than five stars.
"Fantastic, smart, touching, and thoughtful."
The relationships and their progression throughout the story are the highlight of this story, for me. There is a beautiful balance between science and soul.
"Mispronunciation of New Mexico places"
I liked the book, but you should have spoken to someone who LIVES in NM before you performed it. Jemez is " hey mez" not "ya mez"
Chamisa is cha need ah. Pecos is Pay kohs etc. other pronunciations are pretty good.
"Renaissance Woman's life Stayed With Me Long After"
It had a strong effect on me, but it tugged me in more than one direction for most of the story. I have the answer to what kept me most interested- her ultimate choice and why. I don't think I need to read it again now.
It can be compared to the story of any woman in historical fiction who felt trapped or obligated to stay with a life that was chosen for her or she chose for herself that has a bittersweet result.
I don't read much modern women's fiction or historical women's fiction that is closer to contemporary times I can't really come up with a specific title.
Definitely the strength of this story for me was getting it in audio with Jennifer Van Dyck as narrator. I think her storytelling gift and skill kept me more interested than I would have been on my own.
There is a lot of talk of birds and Meridian has long passages of monologue because she is alone so much (kinda the point of the story), but I would have skimmed and maybe put the book down a few times. Maybe not been as interested.
But the narrator gave things a wry, hopeful twist even when Meridian herself is seeing her own life as a useless and long stretch of nothingness.
There are not many highs and lows, but she made the ones there really count. That last portion of the story had me riveted for the first time and I was sobbing. Not that I'm going to thank the dear lady for that experience. ;)
Not really. It required pauses for pondering and because its not the type. It's meant to be read slowly and thoughtfully. It challenges the mind and not the emotions so much.
But the big conflict time in the end, yeah that I wasn't stopping for anything.
I don't feel this will be a book for everyone. It is a blend of historical and women's fiction. Those who pick it up for one reason won't necessarily care for the other elements. And the heroine is written in a way that is real rather than dazzling as is most of the plot and characters. So it will be for those who want a quiet pacing, engaging thought more than senses, but still hitting the emotions hard with a bittersweet gentle triumph in the end rather than something big and exciting.
This book was provided by Audible in exchange of an honest review.
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