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.
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 observes have 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 believe 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 dismisses her crow research, but several other people try to encourage her with it. She has a former professor from her undergraduate years, friends, and a fling who support her wish to go to grad school for a more advanced degree in ornithology, the study of birds. For most of her life, she focuses more on Alden’s discouragement than on others’ encouragement, which made me sad. Later in the book, she encourages girls to follow their interests (Church 325).
It didn’t seem to me like Meridian’s decision about whether to stay with Alden fit with her character. One reason that she narrates is that Alden is more intellectual than Clay, but Clay participates in her crow research instead of dismissing it like Alden does, so it seems like he would be more intellectually stimulating for her (Church 297). I also find it a little alarming how highly she says intelligence is in a partner. She seems to care more about a partner’s intelligence than things like how well she gets along with them or how kind they are. 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 assumes that telling her an anecdote about his earlier attempts to have kids would made it clear that he wants children, but she doesn’t realize that (Church 138-139). They get 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 shift 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.
Church, Elizabeth J. The Atomic Weight of Love, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016.