sâmbătă , 25 noiembrie 2017

My favorite paragraphs: „The Atomic Weight of Love,” by Elizabeth J. Church

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It was such a joy to read Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel! „The Atomic Weight of Love” is the kind of book that infiltrates itself into your daily life and makes you think about the story even when you’re not immersed in reading it. So you can’t wait to find the next couple of hours to read more, and more, and when you finally get to the last line, you feel like you’ve really taken part in the human history unfolded before your eyes. And not just as a simple observer, but as someone who lived and breathed there, along with the characters, and you’re sure that you’ve made their journey yourself.

Here are some of my favorite paragraphs in the book:

I would take the book down to the fields by the train tracks at the edge of our neighborhood, and there I would lie in the grass, smell the fecund earth, and cradle my head on an arm while reading.

***

To question, to ponder, to ask, and to learn. Education was my drug of choice—classrooms, books, lectures, pushing myself to understand. Forever trying to win my father’s approval, never quite grasping the fact that a dead man cannot applaud.

***

And my true love was nature, the outdoors. There, in the solemn patience of a doe or the swift flight of birds, I found the kind of companionship that made me wonder, that challenged me.

***

But Alden never knew how to measure the weight of a sigh. He could not predict the moment when the petal of a spent rose would release and descend. Alden could not tell me when a screech owl would cry out from a darkened pine bough outside my bedroom window and insinuate itself into my dreams.

***

The stars were bits of ice in cold, clear skies. At night, I closed my eyes in my narrow single bed and prayed a godless prayer of gratitude for every moment, every opportunity of each day.

***

Passion walks the edge of control, teasing. It looks down at the rocks in a canyon and contemplates plunging, taking one fatal step to the right. It soars, having released the weight of consciousness of all but the moment.

***

I nodded at the waitress who asked with a glance if I wanted more coffee. When she finished pouring, I said: “I want mountain peaks, Mother. I want joy. Elation.” “Well, sweetie, temper that enthusiasm with a little reality, that’s all I’m saying.” I smiled, placating her. I had no intention of settling. None whatsoever.

***

Colors intensified, and the earth’s palette seemed to explode with variety and subtlety, all beneath an astounding blue sky freed of the haze of humidity.

***

Alden handed me a still-warm, grease-dotted paper bag that smelled wonderfully of fat and sugar, and he waited until I was inside the car before settling a Thermos of coffee in my lap alongside the doughnuts.

***

I held onto Alden as we stood together at the window, his body warm and solid, reassuring beside me. Despite my insistent autonomy, it felt good to lean on someone.

***

I took a hot bath and crawled beneath the covers, lit a cigarette, and watched Alden as he sat reading, pipe smoke wreathing about his head. He closed the book, and I read the spine: The Physics of Flight, by Alfred Landé. Well, well, I thought, pleased.

***

I loved the smell of the barn—alfalfa hay and manure. There was something real, essential about it. I learned to feed Heathen carrots and quartered apples without risking my fingers, and I felt my strength returning as we rode along the frosty January ground amidst dried stalks of mountain wildflowers.

***

We were finishing a lunch of apple pie, accompanied by a Thermos of coffee white with cream.

***

I pulled my knees to my chest, laid my forehead on them, wrapped my arms about my legs, breathed in the darkness I’d created, and rocked myself, gently.

***

Where could we bury all of our sorrows, our regrets, our guilty responsibilities—deserved or undeserved? How deeply could we burrow into that place of oblivion?

***

I liked how I was—alone, but with him, deep in the moment, sensing time and space on every possible layer—from atom to molecule to liquid.

***

As I watched him, I wondered how many times a heart can heal. Are we allotted a specific number of comebacks from heartbreak? Or is that what really kills us, in the end—not strokes or cancer or pneumonia— but instead just one too many blows to the heart? Doctors talk of “cardiac insults”—such a perfect turn of phrase—but they know nothing of the heart, not truly.

***

There it was again, that beast of hope without which life would be so much easier.

***

The waitress poured coffee and took our orders. I held the mug in my cold hands, blew on the surface before sipping.

***

The horizon was vast, open, and I had a sense of how that openness could help to create a sense of freedom, of possibility.

***

The boundaries that had defined me for four decades dissolved. I began to believe I could be anyone. Anyone. It was my choice.

Elizabeth J ChurchElizabeth J. Church / photo

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. (Algonquin Books)

***

„The Atomic Weight of Love” was published on May 3 2016, at Algonquin Books and you can find it RIGHT HERE.

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