The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church (Algonquin Books, 2016)
The cover of this book shows a periodic table of the elements, with birds instead of elements. I wouldn’t call this a great novel, but it was interesting and thought-provoking. Plus you can learn a lot about birds by reading it, since each chapter is prefaced by a set of facts about a particular bird species. The main character is a woman who wants to be an ornithologist, but sadly never achieves this ambition due to the sexist culture of mid-twentieth century America. Meridian does earn a bachelor’s degree and gets accepted to Cornell for graduate school, which has a top ornithology program. But then, she falls in love, gets married, and follows her husband to Los Alamos. She doesn’t even have children, yet she gives up on further education and a career. I thought she was going to publish her many years of bird observation journals, but she doesn’t even do that.