Today I have a review of Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan, now available from William Morrow. A big thank you to Wunderkind PR for my gifted copy.
How about Harper Lee joining in the book picture for this one?! She sat down right in the middle of where I was taking pictures, and I couldn’t move her. ❤️
I’ve wanted to read a book by Stephen P. Kiernan for years, and in fact, I’ve bought his other books due to the great reviews. I’m happy to say Universe of Two lived up to my expectations, and I’m even more excited about the other books.
What shines here most is the writing. In the 1940s, Charlie meets Brenda when he shops in her mother’s music store. Brenda is not interested in him, until he keeps coming to visit her.
Charlie, a brilliant mathematician, is working on the Manhattan Project, which is a secret even to him. Eventually, Charlie is sent to Los Alamos in New Mexico, and Brenda joins him. Charlie is working for the government; unbeknownst to him, his work is on the first atomic bomb.
Charlie comes to realize what it is he’s working on, and he desperately wants to quit. When the bombs are detonated in Japan, he and Brenda are devastated.
The government pays for Charlie to get a doctorate, but everyone in the program is excited about atomic energy, and Charlie is having none fo it. He drops out and searches for something else to do to leave a positive mark on the world.
Universe of Two is a stunningly told story of guilt and redemption. I loved these two complex main characters, and I found their story compelling and thought-provoking. Loosely based on the life of Charlie Fisk, the entire story felt authentic and resonant. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans. This is a good one.
I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.
About the Book:
“Stephen Kiernan has pulled off the nearly impossible…The most tender, terrifying, relevant book you’ll read this year.”— Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
From the critically acclaimed author of The Baker’s Secret and The Curiosity comes a novel of conscience, love, and redemption—a fascinating fictionalized account of the life of Charlie Fisk, a gifted mathematician who was drafted into Manhattan Project and ordered against his morals to build the detonator for the atomic bomb. With his musician wife, he spends his postwar life seeking redemption—and they find it together.
Graduating from Harvard at the height of World War II, brilliant mathematician Charlie Fish is assigned to the Manhattan Project. Working with some of the age’s greatest scientific minds, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, Charlie is assigned the task of designing and building the detonator of the atomic bomb.
As he performs that work Charlie suffers a crisis of conscience, which his wife, Brenda—unaware of the true nature of Charlie’s top-secret task—mistakes as self-doubt. She urges him to set aside his qualms and continue. Once the bombs strike Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the feelings of culpability devastate him and Brenda.
At the war’s end, Charlie receives a scholarship to pursue a PhD in physics at Stanford—an opportunity he and Brenda hope will allow them a fresh start. But the past proves inescapable. All any of his new colleagues can talk about is the bomb, and what greater atomic weapons might be on the horizon. Haunted by guilt, Charlie and Brenda leave Stanford and decide to dedicate the rest of their lives to making amends for the evil he helped to birth into the world.
Based on the life of the actual mathematician Charles B. Fisk, Universe of Two combines riveting historical drama with a poignant love story. Stephen Kiernan has conjured a remarkable account of two people struggling to heal their consciences and find peace in a world forever changed.