Trinity

Written by Louisa Hall
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Trinity portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man credited with being the Father of the Atomic Bomb, from the viewpoints of seven fictional characters. The characterizations begin in 1943 with FBI agent Sam Casal’s recollections of tailing Oppenheimer as he travels from the Radiation Lab across San Francisco Bay to meet, dine, dance, and sleep with a beautiful young dark-haired woman. They end in 1966 with a reporter’s interview of the scientist, dying at the age of 62 from inoperable cancer.

The portrayals come from figures who, for the most part, are incidental to Oppenheimer’s life—an administrative assistant who trails behind him as he dictates memoranda and letters, a neighbor, a WAC who once attended a party at “Oppie’s” house in Los Alamos, a student at Sudbury College who crosses paths with the man when he comes to speak to the senior class. The testimonials, as they are called in the book, delve more into the testifiers’ own lives, often at an agonizing level, than provide perspective on Oppenheimer’s.

While individuals important to Oppenheimer are mentioned—his alcoholic wife Kitty, his lover Jean—none of these speaks of him on his or her own. The reader is left with glimpses of Oppenheimer, jigsaw pieces that come together to form the outline of a puzzle but are scattered or missing in the middle.