A painter takes a Czechoslovakian scientist into her home and then into her in Gallagher's sober and lyrical first work of fiction. (Her nonfiction includes Things Seen and Unseen and Practicing Resurrection.) Successful New York painter Eleanor Garrigue flees to the New Mexico desert to arouse her muse and escape from her cold marriage to her mentor. Leo Kavan, a Jewish physicist who escaped Europe in the nick of time, lands a spot as a researcher on the Manhattan Project. But after witnessing a colleague's death from radiation poisoning, a deeply distraught Leo goes AWOL from Los Alamos and turns up, delirious and fevered, near Eleanor's house. Eleanor, whose brother is a prisoner of war, finds Leo and nurses him back to health. As Leo recovers, the two find in one another reprieve from the war and their tormented pasts. Eleanor and Leo are marvelous characters-damaged but not prone to melodrama-and through them Gallagher touches on themes of loss, independence and intractable morality. Despite a sluggish start and some weak storytelling moments-Gallagher tends to pile on description, and some science-heavy passages could be better massaged-Gallagher's first foray into fiction distinguishes itself as an intriguing and spiritual tale.
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“The moral power of Nora Gallagher’s voice, so evident in her essays, resounds through her first novel. This is a book that deals wisely with many things–love, work, creativity, even physics. But it’s about simplicity in complex situations–i.e., about the lives that all of us lead in the modern age.”
is a love story about desperate people with brains, told quietly and passionately, and stuffed with clear New Mexico light; specifically, the terrible, majestic lights and shadows of Los Alamos in ’45, when The Bomb was born. It unfolds in a remote place that was very near the heart of the 20th century, it is as truthful as an old ballad, and nearly as elegant as Einstein’s physics.”
“Once again, Nora Gallagher has written, with compassion and grace, about the things that matter. Changing Light
is a thoroughly imagined, spiritually courageous glimpse into a moment in time when good and evil might have been one and the same. By turns thriller, love story, and historical mystery, Gallagher turns out to be every bit as talented a novelist as she is a writer of gorgeous non-fiction.”
“An incredibly beautiful story with echoes of Ondaatje and McEwan. Haunting and unforgettable, this is a smashing fiction debut from one of our most thoughtful writers.”
is a remarkable love story, told against the backdrop of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the final innocent days of the world before the atom bomb. Nora Gallagher has effortlessly moved into the world of fiction, bringing her understanding of the spiritual life to her characters, and revealing the importance of faith, not just in religion, but between people, and among the inner workings of science and art.”
—Hannah Tinti, Author of Animal Crackers
“This is a spare, beautifully crafted story about people trying to sort right from wrong under unforgiving circumstances. When good and evil partake of each other, when knowledge alone cannot separate the two, and when time has run out, then moral certainty becomes impossible. Yet the characters of this story, like all of us at one time or another, must somehow choose and live with the consequences. Nora Gallagher is no stranger to these themes; in her non-fiction work, she has already led us beyond the seen and the known to where feeling guides us. Here she does it in fiction, and she has given us a jewel of a novel.”
is a lyrical and passionate novel that takes on some of the largest matters of our day with no loss to its intimacy. Conviction that writing matters the way life matters is Gallagher's hallmark, and this reader is her grateful beneficiary."
“An elegiac and tenderly-written love story between a stranger and an artist on a high New Mexico mesa under the looming cloud of an atomic bomb, secret pasts, and hidden passions.”
“At last, a novel about something. Nora Gallagher captures with dazzling beauty the lives of a woman and a man caught in the grip of history and our country’s shadowed past. I held my breath reading it.”