SIMILAR BOOKS BY CATEGORY
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502 pages (July 2005); 1.9MB download
Soft Skull Press; ISBN: 1-932360-85-9
Finalist, 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Prize!
“[An] extremely smart… resonant fantasy.” — New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant, madcap, poetic, fact-spiked, and penetrating (think Twain, Vonnegut, Murakami, and DeLillo)… illuminates the personal dimension of our most daunting dilemma.” — Booklist (*Starred Review*)
“Lydia Millet is da bomb. Literally… Though Oh Pure and Radiant Heart possesses the nervy irreverence of Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller, Millet makes the subject matter her own, capturing the essence of these geniuses in a way that can only be described as, well, genius.” — Vanity Fair
“In her brilliant and fearless new novel Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet takes a headlong run at the subject of nuclear annihilation, weaving together black comedy, science, history, and time travel to produce, against stiff odds, a shattering and beautiful work.” — Entertainment Weekly
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart tells the story of a young New Mexico couple whose quiet lives are transformed by the sudden appearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard — the long-dead scientists who developed the first atom bomb.
When Oppie, Fermi and Szilard materialize in Santa Fe in 2003, Ann, a reference librarian, and her doting gardener husband Ben take them in. With the displaced physicists for houseguests, Ann and Ben are swept up in an absurd and tumultuous chain of events that takes them across the globe from Hiroshima Ground Zero to the Nevada Test Site. As the scientists, faced with the evidence of their nuclear legacy, cross the United States on a naive and rather poignant crusade for peace “bankrolled by an earnest, pot-smoking surfer with a family fortune” they attract a vast parade of groupies, drifters, activists, former Deadheads, New Age freeloaders and religious fanatics who believe Oppenheimer is the risen messiah.
As the fundamentalist wing of the scientists’ following gains strength and becomes a paramilitary force, pressure on the scientists mounts. Oppenheimer struggles with his newfound identity as a spiritual leader while Szilard negotiates with his enemies and Fermi takes refuge in a psychiatric ward. Meanwhile Ann and Ben fight to save their marriage, which is threatened by Ann’s obsessive devotion to the scientists and Ben’s cynical disbelief in their authenticity.