Details: Hardcover, 448 pages
Publication: August 4, 2020 by William Morrow
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
“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
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.
My Thoughts: This is probably the best book I’ve read based during a war. It held my attention from beginning to end, even though some parts were a bit confusing to me. Even with the confusion – mostly about war and organs – I did learn about both subjects, which is always lovely to me. The alternating perspectives was also a bit confusing until the very end.
The character development, for Brenda especially, was great. I couldn’t stand her for a good chunk of the book – probably up until the last fourth of the book. I always love characters who recognize their mistakes and work to change things. I also loved the development for her mother. It was heartwarming to watch her soften and act more caring towards her entire family.
The writing itself was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of a Nicholas Sparks book, though maybe with a little more depth into certain topics. This was my first book by this author, but with how much I adored this book, I’ll absolutely be looking into his others as soon as I can.
My favorite thing about this book was the realistic aspect. Kiernan showed the toll war takes on everyone involved – whether that be the partners and family of soldiers or the soldiers themselves. He showed how it can affect marriages, families, and mental health.
Overall, this was absolutely a book that was worth reading. I learned a lot about the war, organs, and even relationships. The writing was wonderful, and it felt so real at times that I’d feel as if I were a part of the story myself. The book does contain some sensitive subjects, so it may be best to read with some caution.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via JeanBookNerd Tours and am voluntarily leaving a review.
You can order Universe of Two from Amazon in the following formats:
Connect with Stephen P. Kiernan here: