This week’s Maria’s staff pick

by Jaime Cary

The Brothers Vonnegut, by Ginger Strand

Quite simply, I really, really love the works of Kurt Vonnegut. His books are brilliant, honest, funny, and heart breaking. He does a fantastic job contrasting what we do as a society and species against what we know we shouldn’t. Most people know him for his book, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” his book explaining the firebombing of Dresden. I knew Vonnegut’s personal life greatly influenced his work, but I had absolutely no idea how much.

In “The Brothers Vonnegut,” Ginger Strand follows the lives of Kurt and Bernard Vonnegut just after the end of World War II. Bernie was a scientist working on atmospheric studies, and Kurt was a (secretly) aspiring writer. Both of them ended up working at GE in New York, a place that was every scientist’s dream for the short peace that existed momentarily between WWII and the start of the Cold War, where money was abundant and scientists were encouraged to follow their curiosities and to discover knew things about the universe. Kurt and Bernie looked on as these discoveries and the prevailing attitude toward science shifted from one of creation to one whose purpose was for war. These tensions greatly shaped the brothers’ lives as they struggled with the same deep questions. They led Bernie to make great discoveries that still affect us today (Project Cirrus eventually led to an examination on how man affects climate), and the questions that Kurt pondered in his books are ones we must answer today.

“The Brothers Vonnegut” was fantastic, and Strand’s storytelling is brilliant. It pulled me through the book quickly, as she moves between the brothers flawlessly, effectively mixing their two stories to find the big questions surrounding science and morality that plagued both of them. She did a wonderful job relating both the technical scientific ideas and the complex moral ones, all while brilliantly relating the history of Project Cirrus, which changed the way we think about weather and climate.

— Jaime Cary

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