The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
Meridian Wallace grew up wanting to study birds. As a student at the University of Chicago in the 1940s, she falls in love with and marries an older physics professor, Alden Whetstone, who leaves her side temporarily to work on the Manhattan Project. At the end of the war, he stays on at Los Alamos, but Meri joins him, putting her graduate work in ornithology on hold. On her own, she begins to study and sketch the local crow population. As the decades pass, Meri resigns herself to a marriage devoid of passion. Then, in 1970, she meets Clay Griffin, a geology student and Vietnam veteran who, at 26, is young enough to be her son. Meri resolves to keep her distance from the disarmingly straightforward young man, but is drawn back to him time and again. As Meri considers leaving her husband for him, a sudden illness forces her to re-evaluate her plans for the future. As characters go, Meri is a little too passive, Alden too one-dimensional a domestic tyrant, and Clay too good to be true. Nonetheless, readers will enjoy following Meri’s long, vivid journey, which concludes in her 80s.
The Jew Store by Stella Suberman
The Jew Store is an intimate family story that sheds new light on a piece of American history. Here is One Man’s Family with a twist: a Jew, born into poverty in pre-revolutionary Russia, finds his way to America, finds a trade, finds a wife, and sets out to find his fortune in a place where Jews are unwelcome.
In 1920s small town America, the ubiquitous dry goods store – selling work clothes and school clothes, sheets and towels, yard goods and notions – was usually owned by Jews and often referred to as “the Jew store,” which is how Bronson’s Low-Priced Store, Stella Suberman’s father’s retail establishment in Concordia, Tennessee, was known.
Like other enterprising Jewish immigrants of the period – Levi Strauss and the founders of Rich’s and Goldsmith’s, for instance – Aaron Bronson set out from New York City in search of a place to settle his family and prove himself as businessman and provider. He proved that…and much more.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fiery by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over—and see everything anew.
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.
Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.