Author: Elizabeth J. Church
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I liked the idea of this book and the writing was beautiful, but the tone was too detached and the glimpses of the protagonists life were too brief.
“In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly. Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb).” (Source) Once there, Alden and Meridian’s relationship suffers. They no longer have the intellectual conversations she so loved and she resents that Alden respects her less now that she no longer has the academic career she gave up for him. When, twenty years later, a young Vietnam veteran shakes up Meridian’s life, she must decide if it’s too late to start again.
Well, this was the wrong book for me to be reading right now. My husband and I both have great respect for the importance of each other’s careers, but even so, it was tough reading about a woman giving up the dream of a PhD just as I’m fighting through the last stretch of mine. Please keep in mind that this probably influenced my reading of this book. I’m generally someone who hates reading about things that almost work out or people with regrets though, so this might not have worked for me at anytime. I found it a very stressful read. I wanted to shout at Meridian to not make so many of her decisions. I wanted so badly for her to have the career she’d dreamed of. I never peak ahead and hate spoilers, but I did skim ahead a few times in this book because I just wanted to know it would all work out. It wasn’t a fun reading experience.
The writing reminder me of Meridian’s relationship with Alden – appealingly intelligent, but a little too stiff, showing too little emotion. I loved Meridian’s intelligence and the author’s clever way with words as well, but frustration was the only emotion this book made me feel. The author’s writing was too objective. She described Meridian’s emotions to me, but she didn’t make me feel them. I think part of the problem was that this was a 300 page book covering 60+ years. Every single part of Meridian’s life suffered for the brevity with which it was described. I never understood her relationship with Alden. There were two or three tiny snippets that made me see good things about him, but this was nowhere near enough to offset the near abusiveness we see in some of the other snippets. The periods of Meridian’s life where she was happy flew by far too quickly, but I wanted more about even her sorrow and regret.
I do have a giveaway of this book and I know that may be less appealing given my review! However, I do think some people will enjoy this more than I did and the goodreads reviews suggest that I’m right. I would most recommend this to people who don’t share my dislike of characters with regrets and for whom clever writing is particularly important in determining whether or not you’ll enjoy a book.