If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit: A Discussion by Kait Carson

May, June, and July were patriotic months in my neck of the woods. The summer kicked off with the solemn ceremonies of Memorial Day. Flag Day ceremonies fell smack in the middle of June, and the raucous joy of the Fourth of July brought the first full month of summer in with a bang. Patriotism wasn’t optional. Many of our fathers fought in WWII, many of our teachers were British war brides, and our small town tripled? in size as it grew to accommodate returning GIs. WWII was both before my time and a part of the fabric of my life. Is it any wonder then that spring and summer find me craving novels set in the late 1940s?

This year I found TaraShea Nesbit’s The Wives of Los Alamos on sale at my local Barnes & Nobel. Perfect, women centric WWII. Like most people, I knew some of the story of Los Alamos. It was both the assembly site for the atomic bombs and an atomic energy research site. It wasn’t until I saw the movie Fat Man and Little Boy that I realized the men who lived and worked at Los Alamos were not military. They were civilians, and they were permitted to take their families with them.

The thought was breathtaking. What was life like for those families, especially the women and children? Los Alamos was a temporary city under a pall of heavy secrecy. There was a military presence at the camp, but it wasn’t a base. How did normal life go on for the families literally imported into this hastily built world of mud, snow, heat, and secrets?

Like a cyclops I zipped through my TBR pile keeping my eye on the prize until the stack winnowed down to The Wives of Los Alamos. I finished my prior book, The Pilot’s Wife at eleven o’clock at night. Unable to make myself wait until the next day, I opened The Wives of Los Alamos. The first chapter was confusing. It seemed to be about a group of women living in a dormitory. I forgave the book, thinking I had missed something in my tiredness. After all, it was wartime. The men were scientists. Perhaps the story was starting in a university. The second chapter had the group traveling in a train, then arriving in New Mexico, then laying linoleum in their newly built houses, then…

I frantically flipped pages. The entire book was written in first person plural. Not a single character to care about. No one to hang an emotion on. No one to identify with. It became impossible to separate emotions and actions. New dresses equaled evidence of affairs. Husbands were moved to bachelor quarters, wives were warned not to talk in town and to pretend to be drunk. What? Why? Who? Sigh!

I pressed on, reading now not for the story of the lives of the women, but for the texture of the experience. My inability to find a character to root for undermined my interest in the human story, but from the standpoint of history, the book provides a glimpse of grace under pressure and a willingness to pull together for what was hoped was the greater good. In most cases the men knew only what they needed to know and the women knew less than that. It is an amazing story of endurance and patriotism.

As a social history, I can recommend the book. As a novel, which is how the book portrays itself, the point of view is too disruptive. It gets in the way of the story. Or, perhaps it’s just not my cup of tea. The book is doing quite well in the Amazon ratings and has multiple reviews and it did whet my appetite to learn more about the real wives of Los Alamos and about their lives.[1]

Writers, have you tackled a first person plural book, or written one that you considered using that point of view?

Readers, have you read a book with that viewpoint? What did you think of it? Did you enjoy it?

[1] Fun fact from a fellow Writer Who Kills, Julie Tollefson – we peer review our blogs – you may remember she wrote about her recent trip with the Science Club. Here’s her comment. “When we toured Los Alamos National Lab a couple weeks ago with the high school Science Club, our tour guide said "You know that McDonald's you saw as you drove through town? There's a tunnel underneath where we used to store the entire U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapon components."”  


Margaret Turkevich said...

"We the people." Interesting point of view. It's my understanding that the wives and kids were allowed to come to Los Alamos because General Groves perceived their presence as less of a security risk than having spouses make long distance phone calls about their work.

KM Rockwood said...

I find it hard to get my mind around writing in a first person plural. I tend to write in either first person singular, or a very close third person.

I can, though, imagine writing that way if I were depicting a group activity (or, mre fun, writing from the point of view of ants or bees or herd animals) but I don't know that it would end up being a viable novel. As you note, no one to really care about.

Interesting, though. I may have to take a look at this just out of curiousity.

Gloria Alden said...

I have read so many books over the years, and I'm sure I have read books in first person plural,but I can't remember the titles of any. However, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't bother me to read multiple points of view. I'm sure some of the characters would be more appealing than others.

Warren Bull said...

Third person plural is not a POV I like to read or write. I don't like to read or write POV for you.

Kait said...

Hi everyone, sorry I am late responding! Thursday was my birthday and hubs took me out to celebrate today rather than midweek, so, just back.
@Margaret - yes, that is in the book that the security risk was deemed less, also, the scientists were not military and so there was a fine line between what could and could not be ordered. Still, the birth certificates of the children born at Los Alamos was a PO Box - can you imagine! All those children (and from what I gather it was a rather large number) one address.

@KM, it was not comfortable to read after I realized it was not a gimmick for a prolog or intro. I can't think of another book I've read from that POV.

@Gloria I can't think of a one, I'd be curious to hear of others. I'm sure there have to be some. Multiple POVs are fine, and in this instance would have been captivating as there must have been so many differing POVs. To have captured several (and perhaps to include a husband and someone from the nearbyt town) would have made for a rich book.

@Warren - Agreed.

Jim Jackson said...

I’m afraid I can’t conceive of a book written in first person plural, unless it represented an individual with multiple personalities—that might be interesting. I’m sure the failure is one of my lack of imagination. I work hard to successfully write in first person and third person singular. I don’t need the extra challenge of moving to a plural point-of-view.

~ Jim