Category: Books

My Thoughts on the Novel “The Atomic Weight of Love,” by Elizabeth J. Church

My Thoughts on the Novel “The Atomic Weight of Love,” by Elizabeth J. Church

In this media series, I divide my posts into two parts: Part 1 for those who haven’t started it yet, and Part 2 for those who would like to delve deeper into the work. Image description: a person stands on a stack of books, reaching towards a crow.


Part 1

I enjoyed the focus on birds in The Atomic Weight of Love. Meridian specialized in crows, observing them and keeping journals of her observations, both in words and pictures. A couple of the crows she observed had mutations, possibly related to the bomb that Alden, her husband, helped develop. This shows that war has devastating effects on animals, in addition to us. Meridian’s narration still added a touch of nuance to my worldview, since she and the people who worked on the bombs believed that dropping them was the only way to end WW2. This doesn’t mean that I agree with using nuclear weapons, just that I now have a better understanding of the developers’ motivations.

Alden dismissed her crow research, but several people tried to encourage her with it. She had a former professor, friends, and a fling who supported her wish to go to grad school for a more advanced degree in ornithology, the study of birds. For most of her life, she focused more on Alden’s discouragement than on others’ encouragement, which I find sad. It’s natural for humans to focus more on the negative than on the positive, but it’s possible for us to fight that impulse. Eventually, she found a new dream, and started helping girls realize their dreams (Church 325). She turned her pain into something positive, which I find inspiring.


Part 2

It didn’t seem to me like Meridian’s decision about whether to stay with Alden fit with her character. One reason that she narrated was that he was more intellectual than Clay, but Clay participated in her crow research instead of dismissing it like Alden did, so it seems like he would’ve actually been more intellectually stimulating for her (Church 297). I also find it a little alarming how highly she prioritized intelligence in a partner. She seemed to care more about a partner’s intelligence than things like how well she got along with them or how kind they were. I think this novel is a good reminder to not focus too much on one trait in a partner to the detriment of others.

Alden had assumed that telling her an anecdote about his earlier attempts to have kids would’ve made it clear that he wanted children, but she didn’t realize that (Church 138-139). They got into an awful fight about it. It’s important to be direct about topics like this with a partner, and to discuss them early.

I found it interesting how Meridian’s interests shifted from science to art and poetry over her lifetime. That made me think about how my interests have changed, too. For example, when I was still in college, someone started a psychology club. If I had realized back then that psychology was a passion of mine, I would’ve made a beeline for it, but now I know how much I love it.

I found it fitting that she founded an organization to encourage girls, since she had dealt with so much discouragement from Alden. I would’ve liked a bit more detail about the impact that it had, but it was still a sweet ending. That part of the novel has a powerful message about how women can fight sexism by encouraging each other to do what we want to do.


Works Cited

Church, Elizabeth J. The Atomic Weight of Love, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016.


My Thoughts on the Book “A Good Marriage,” by Stephen King (Audio Version)

In this media series, I divide a post into two parts: Part 1, for those who haven’t watched, read, or listened to the work yet, and Part 2, for those who already have and would like to dive deeper into it. Here we go.


Content note: murder (including that of a child), rape, mutilation, sexual assault


Part 1

“A Good Marriage” is about Darcy’s discovery that her husband of 27 years, Bob, has been living a double life. The story stays surprisingly mundane for a long time. Bob and Darcy meet at work, bond over coin collecting, buy a house, and have children. He worries about his hair loss. I found the continuously ordinary events amusing, considering the genre.

Darcy finds a box in the garage while looking for batteries. The box contains evidence that Bob has committed horrible crimes. The rest of the book deals with Darcy processing her feelings about this information and figuring out what to do about it. I love stories about ethical dilemmas. They teach me about being a better person and give me something weighty to process intellectually and emotionally.

Darcy has compassion for the people who Bob victimized. Other factors also weigh heavily on her mind, such as how turning Bob in could affect her financial situation or her children, who are just beginning to build their adult lives. She still has some affection for Bob, though she finds him repulsive. King weaves her conflicting emotions about him together, such as in the line, “(Bob’s note made her feel) a wave of love for him as cloying as the scent of dying flowers.” Her anguish over her emotions about Bob and what to do about him made me uneasy. I didn’t expect her to make the decision that she did, but I’m satisfied with the ending.


Part 2

I don’t believe Bob’s story about B.D influencing him to become a rapist and killer. I caught him in a lie later in the book. He sends police a note about the boy he kills, saying, “I’m sorry about the boy. It was an accident. It was quick. He didn’t suffer.” It turned out that he had bitten off part of the boys’s penis. B.D may be fake. Part of why Darcy falls for Bob is because he helps her through grieving for her sister, drawing from his own experience with allegedly losing B.D. I think that B.D is a ruse to manipulate Darcy into getting closer to him so that he can use Darcy and the children they have together as social proof that he’s a nice, ordinary guy, papering over his secret criminal activity.I find it more believable that he considers his victims to be “snoots.” Unfortunately, some men refuse to accept it when women reject them.

The narrator mentions that Bob won’t take no for an answer when he asks Darcy out. Eventually, she says yes. I was wondering if I could spot any clues that Darcy didn’t. This is the first red flag in the timeline of their relationship that I noticed. Men who don’t respect women’s rights to reject them are more likely to mistreat women in other ways. I still don’t blame Darcy. She may think, due to her family or the culture around her, that it’s normal for men to not respect women’s boundaries. If she thinks that’s normal, she may not realize that he’s at risk for even worse behavior towards women.

“A Good Marriage” has made me even more vigilant to signs of entitlement from men towards women. Bob’s motivation for his crimes make me suspect that a large percentage of men who murder women do so because they think that women are obligated to return their interest. I’ll do research to find out if my hunch is accurate.