Soft rains

Cover, Sheinkin's BombGearbox needs to read a non-fiction book this summer. Being a huge Sheinkin fan, he picked Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. It arrived in the mail today and I immediately stole it and read it before he could get his hands on it because that’s the kind of mother I am.

Bomb, like other Sheinkin books, brings an era to life in a way that is both fascinating and informative. Sheinkin has a rare gift; his non-fiction is as gripping as a novel you’d bring to the beach. The story follows three threads: the attempt to make the bomb, the attempt to keep the Germans from making the bomb, and the attempt by the Soviets to steal the bomb technology.

While most of the story is a tense and thrilling spy thriller, the descriptions of the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are painful and effectively convey the horror of the bomb blast:

“Just as my brother reached out a catch the dragonfly, there was a flash. I felt like I’d suddenly been blown into a furnace… When I opened my eyes after being flung eight yards, it was still as dark as if I were facing a wall painted black.” [p195]

This eye-witness quotation reminded me of Ray Bradbuy’s post-apocalyptic short story “There will come soft rains”. In Bradbury’s dystopian short, a heavily automated house goes about it’s daily tasks of getting a family ready for the day long after the family is gone. Eventually the reader learns that the family was killed in a nuclear blast:

“The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick up flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him, a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.”

In the story, the house recites a Sarah Teasdale poem that was inspired by the horrors of WW1:

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Amy at The Poem Farm.

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11 Responses to Soft rains

  1. Linda Baie says:

    The book is very well done. I’ve been to Los Alamos, read other books about that time, including ones by Feynman, and then the horrific Hiroshima. What a terrible time. I (is love the right word?) enjoy ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’, but I love all things Bradbury & this is certainly one of my favorites, have studied it with students too. Thanks for the poem, Katya. It’s sweet, isn’t it? Have you read The World Without Us? Fascinating!

  2. Such a weaving of texts you offer us today, Katya. This book is sitting on my nightstand, and you just moved it up the pile. You and Julie Larios are both pairing genres today – so spot-on and true. Finding beauty and making meaning from horror matters greatly. Happy PF to you and yours!

  3. Tara says:

    A perfect pairing. I thought Bomb was such a powerful read for my sixth graders because of its varying perspectives. The Teasdale poem distilled the sense of awful loss beautifully.

  4. Laura Shovan says:

    Hi, Katya. After reading your post, I have to recommend a great MG/YA historical fiction novel to your history buff. “The Green Glass Sea” by Ellen Klages, is about two children whose parents are scientists working on the atomic bomb. They live at Los Alamos. The history is terrific and Klages does not shy away from the conflict between the scientists, many of whom were against using the bomb they helped create.

  5. Katya,
    BOMB is on my list, too, and just moved higher thanks to your writing! Thanks, also, for partnering it with the Teasdale poem, especially these lines

    And not one will know of the war, not one
    Will care at last when it is done.

    which helps me feel how pain is really endured alone, how wounds often do heal yet leave a scar.

  6. jama says:

    Fabulous post, Katya. Even more anxious to read the book now, and will have to look for Bradbury’s story.

  7. Matt Forrest says:

    Sounds like a riveting book – and that Ray B. story is a classic. (I grew up on sci-fi and have always been a fan!) Never knew his short story was inspired by the poem, though.

  8. Powerful post, Katya, and, as others have noted, a perfect pairing. Thanks for sharing. (Oh, and a mother who “borrows” her kids’ books before handing them over? A woman after my own heart.)

  9. Tabatha says:

    Excellent post. This Sara Teasdale poem is a keeper.

    In the Bradbury quote, he says, “The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places,” but then only four places are mentioned. Is it crazy that I noticed that? Just wondering about the fifth place. A pet?

  10. Ruth says:

    I think the fifth place is the ball, Tabatha?

  11. Mary Lee says:

    Loved the way Sheinkin pulled me in when I read BOMB. The two other texts you chose to go with it are, as everyone else has already said, perfectly chosen. I love Sara Teasdale.

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