Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos'- Review

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press

ISBN: 0-8263-0281-5

Length: 149 Pages

Opening Line: 'My father, Ashley Pond, grew up in Detroit, a delicate boy who suffered through his school days and even through college with bronchitis.'


I admit, that I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. I'm more or less willing to read anything. However, I have avoided this genre because I was under the assumption, that non-fiction involved reading about the lives of famous people and I don't particularly want to read juicy details of the exploits of the rich and famous.

However, when I was given the recommendation of reading 'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos', I decided to break my fiction habit.

The true story of Edith Warner is told by Peggy Pond Church who, with the help of her memories of her friend and extracts from Edith's diaries and 'Christmas Letters', pieces together the life of this fascinating woman.

Edith Warner was a woman who needed to be away from the hustle and bustle of life. She felt a stranger in the modern world and knew that she was destined for something different. So, after falling into ill health in around the 1920's, a friend John Boyd takes her to the isolated, but magnificent landscape of San Lldefonso in New Mexico. It is there, that Edith finds the place she is destined to be.

Edith discovers a small house by Otowi bridge by the Rio Grande, in a place the Indians call 'Po-sah-con-gay', (the place where the river makes a noise). There she runs a small shop, selling goods to trains and visitors, crossing the bridge.

Times are often hard for Edith, finance is often tight and sometimes the isolation of the house is almost impossible to bare. However, what she gains during her stay at the little house, is a sense of being at one with nature and a peace that she has longed for. The story highlights the deep friendships she makes with members of the neighbouring Indians at San Lldefonso pueblos and how, even though both Edith and the people are from completely different cultures, they come to have a deep understanding of each other.

Years pass peacefully for Edith and the San Lldefonso residents, until war breaks out and with it, brings the world outside of the plateau, closer to Edith. Scientists researching into atomic energy, take over parts of surrounding area and Edith provides them food and peace, away from the stresses of their potentially destructive work. Through Edith and the beautiful surroundings, the scientists are forced to rethink the motives behind their work, resulting in them using both their knowledge and the ancient teachings of the people of San LIdefonso, for less destructive uses.

Left to my own devises, I probably wouldn't have chosen to read this book to be honest. However, I'm so glad that I did, because 'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos' is a wonderful book. It is beautifully descriptive and is as good as any fiction novel. The descriptions made me want to go and live in the peace and tranquility of the plateau. The story is compelling and I thought that the information about the traditions of the Indians was very interesting. I love how, even though scientists tried to influence the tranquil life at the plateau, it was the plateau that influenced the lives of the scientists and indeed, everyone who visited it.

I really enjoyed 'The House of Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos' and would definitely recommend this. I'd also like to read some more non-fiction, so I'd love to hear some more of your recommendations.


  1. So glad you enjoyed the book, and intertesting to hear you say that it reads like a novel - that's what I thought when I first read it. M

  2. It was a really interesting read. Something I forgot to mention in the review, was that I love the index at the back, which includes Edith's 'Christmas letters', poems written by Peggy Pond Church and also a recipe for Edith Warner's famous chocolate cake! It added a lovely personal touch to the novel.

  3. I have yet to read the above mentioned book.
    Your review is very inspiring. Am currently reading 'The Stately Homo' by Paul Bailey - a very amusing read. Have you read it?;-)
    Wishing you a nice weekend. xx

  4. My parents live in Los Alamos! There is a large, round pond in the middle of the town, and it is called Ashley Pond--I never knew it was named after a person!

  5. Fashion, Art and Fancies- I'm glad that the review inspires you to read this novel. I haven't read 'The Stately Homo', but I'm going to search for it on Amazon. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Kathy- That's so interesting that your parents live in the location of the book! Judging from the descriptions of the book, this must be an absolutely beautiful place to live in. Is it? I'd be interesting to see how accurate the descriptions are, compared to the reality.