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.