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Publisher's Summary

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart plucks the three scientists who were integral to the invention of the atom bomb: Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi as they watch history's first mushroom cloud rise over the desert on July 16th, 1945... and places them down in modern-day Santa Fe. One by one, the scientists are spotted by a shy librarian who becomes convinced of their authenticity. Entranced, bewildered, and overwhelmed by their significance as historical markers on the one hand, and their peculiar personalities on the other, she, to the dismay of her husband, devotes herself to them. Soon the scientists acquire a sugar daddy - a young pothead millionaire from Tokyo who bankrolls them. Heroes to some, lunatics or con artists to others, the scientists finally become messianic religious figureheads to fanatics, who believe Oppenheimer is the Second Coming. As the ever-growing convoy traverses the country in a fleet of RV's on a pilgrimage to the UN, the scientists wrestle with the legacy of their invention and their growing celebrity, while Ann and her husband struggle with the strain on their marriage, a personal journey married to a history of thermonuclear weapons.

©2006 Lydia Millet (P)2010 Iambik Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart provides catharsis and education while allowing us to bask in the humorous, poignant possibilities of what if.” (The Believer)
“Delicate and beautifully handled, this is indeed a literary balancing act . . . When it’s flying, this novel can be moving and wonderfully funny.” (Hartford Courant)
“In her brilliant and fearless novel Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Lydia Millet takes a headlong run at the subject of nuclear annihilation, weaving together black comedy, science, history, and time travel to produce, against stiff odds, a shattering and beautiful work. A-.” (Entertainment Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 03-07-11

Don't overlook this!

I am always leery of really well-priced audio books, fearing that they may be amateur efforts, but I couldn???t resist trying this recording of one of my favourite contemporary novels. I am delighted with it.

The novel is an inventive mix of history, science, and fantasy that still speaks to our world???s nuclear and celebrity-obsessed reality almost 10 years after it was published. Although there is an element of fantasy, it doesn???t fit the fantasy genre - so "imaginative" might be a better descriptor.

The listen is well-narrated --if there is any criticism, a very slight British accent can be heard in the some of the American characters, and the narrator reads text items like "end of chapter one/start of part 2", which can be a bit annoying. I researched the production company a bit; it looks like they may resuscitate some other otherwise overlooked excellent fiction. I???m glad they???re on Audible.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Not a Fan

First of all, the book is set pretty much entirely in the US with mostly American characters, but the narrator is British. It really didn't work for me. The American dialogue changes with British emphasis.

Second, this is the second Lydia Millet book I've read, and in both she has made the female protagonist to be maddeningly non communicative to the point of weak.

Finally, with respect to both of these points, the narrator frequently has the female protagonist whine when there's no indication that she is doing so. For example, when she says "I want to leave" in the restaurant, I don't imagine that the author intended her to be whining, but she did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason
  • Koto ku, Japan
  • 03-19-13

This wasn't for me.

What disappointed you about Oh Pure and Radiant Heart?

The story just never went anywhere. I was almost finished with the book but couldn't be bothered listening to the very end. I just didn't care what happened to any of the characters.

Would you ever listen to anything by Lydia Millet again?

No, I wouldn't.

What does Cori Samuel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I think the humor comes out well.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Oh Pure and Radiant Heart?

All of the parts having to do with religious fundamentalists.

Any additional comments?

It was a bit odd to have a book set in America, following American character's POV with a British accent. It was a bit hard to overcome this disconnect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Couple of issues dampened my enthusiasm

Issues:
1. There were too many characters I just didn't care about. I understand that the religious fundamentalists and other assorted fruitcakes were pivotal to the plot, but the author never convinced me to warm to them. I was continually frustrated by the protagonists' reaction to them-I just didn't buy it.

2. The narrator is probably a perfectly good narrator for other books, but was miscast for this book. Too often the female protagonist came off as whiney. The narrator used a high voice and that was a difficult listen. Also, the heroine and one other female character, Tamika, sounded exactly alike to me--and they were two completely different characters. Finally, listening to a British accent convey very American dialog just didn't do the story any favors.

I like the idea of the book, which is why I stuck with it to the end, and I liked what the author had to say at the end--it's just that much of the story was a slog--especially the long road trip. More editing needed.

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  • Performance
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stunning, enlightening story; misogynist narration

Would you try another book from Lydia Millet and/or Cori Samuel?

I would read anything and everything Lydia Millet ever wrote. I do not want to hear more books narrated by Cori Samuel.

What didn’t you like about Cori Samuel’s performance?

I read this book shortly after it came out in 2005--I was a teenager--and found it gorgeous and world-cracking-open in that way that you do when you're a kid discovering the world. I still love it. Cori Samuel's narration, however, took every female character in the book and up-talked / whispered / pleaded / whined their voices. It was awful. I couldn't stop cringing / couldn't stop the angry feeling that the narrator's internalized misogyny was ruining something so beautiful and so prized.

Any additional comments?

The book does drag a little in the last quarter, until the conclusion (which is cathartic), and the religious fundamentalists are terribly hateable. They're hateable to make a point, though, and the point is voice-overed every now and then by the Oppenheimer character, so I get it (and I like it--now that it's done). It's just not always fun to listen to.