August 12, 2020

Universe of Two Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway


Universe of Two
Author: Stephen P. Kiernan
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow


From the critically acclaimed author of The Baker’s Secret and The Curiosity comes a novel of conscience, love, and redemption—a fascinating fictionalized account of the life of Charlie Fisk, a gifted mathematician who was drafted into Manhattan Project and ordered against his morals to build the detonator for the atomic bomb. With his musician wife, he spends his postwar life seeking redemption—and they find it together.

Graduating from Harvard at the height of World War II, brilliant mathematician Charlie Fish is assigned to the Manhattan Project. Working with some of the age’s greatest scientific minds, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, Charlie is assigned the task of designing and building the detonator of the atomic bomb.

As he performs that work Charlie suffers a crisis of conscience, which his wife, Brenda—unaware of the true nature of Charlie’s top-secret task—mistakes as self-doubt. She urges him to set aside his qualms and continue. Once the bombs strike Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the feelings of culpability devastate him and Brenda.

At the war’s end, Charlie receives a scholarship to pursue a PhD in physics at Stanford—an opportunity he and Brenda hope will allow them a fresh start. But the past proves inescapable. All any of his new colleagues can talk about is the bomb, and what greater atomic weapons might be on the horizon. Haunted by guilt, Charlie and Brenda leave Stanford and decide to dedicate the rest of their lives to making amends for the evil he helped to birth into the world.

Based on the life of the actual mathematician Charles B. Fisk, Universe of Two combines riveting historical drama with a poignant love story. Stephen Kiernan has conjured a remarkable account of two people struggling to heal their consciences and find peace in a world forever changed.


“Rarely does historical fiction get everything so right as Universe of Two: compelling characters, faithful detail, a story packed with unexpected twists, and a sure, authentic voice that never wavers. In this novel of the dawn of the atomic age and its profound consequences, Stephen Kiernan leads us along a journey of conscience as complex and infinite as the science itself.” —Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour

“Stephen Kiernan has pulled off the nearly impossible, reminding us by wrapping a war story in a love story that although we hold the power for our own extinction, we also have the power to redeem, heal, and save. The most tender, terrifying, relevant book you’ll read this year.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family

“Based loosely on the life of mathematician and organ-maker Charles B. Fisk, this fascinating novel delves into the guilt and remorse that wracked him for his part in the development of the atomic bomb....The two main characters are complex and flawed, but when they come together, their world is in harmony.” —Library Journal

“Kiernan recreates the zeitgeist of America leading up to the atomic bomb on a national and personal level: the eager anticipation of wartime’s end, the grimly fascinating science, and the growing sense of guilt and dread. Simultaneously tender and hard-hitting, this riveting story offers much to reflect upon.” —Booklist

"Universe of Two skillfully educates, entertains and enlightens as great historical fiction should....Masterfully researched and exquisitely told." —The Patriot Ledger

You can purchase Universe of Two at the following Retailers:

Brenda’s Feelings Page 142-144

The afternoon was quiet as the week before, spring advancing, but this year without graduation-present customers and wedding-gift parents. My first anniversary at Dubie’s Music approached, and a job I’d been loving had turned to mud.

Where was Charlie? What was he doing? Why had I sent such a trivial reply?

On the way home, I saw a couple kissing against a building. Some kids chased each other around a tree. A pigeon trotted along with its head bobbing, staying in my path without flying away for a full block. But nothing could make the sun come out.

At home I went straight to my room, fishing out the stationery that I saved for thank-you notes and special occasions. I parked myself at the little desk and began.

Dear Charlie, Please forgive my last letter. It was terrible and petty. This is all new to me. As it is to you too, of course. So I will make dumb mistakes until I learn better.

Since you left Chicago, the music is gone. No one pops into the store. There’s no you to learn new pieces for. Spring is happening all around me but I do not feel it. In your letter you used the word alchemy and I do not know what it means. This is a secret I have kept from you: Sometimes you use words I don’t understand. I do not want to pretend any more.

I sat back, astonished. Every sentence contained a confession. Reading this note after the last one, and think I had gone stark crazy. I slid the paper into a drawer, and went downstairs.

My mother was in the kitchen. Feeling like I’d be terrible company, I went to the living room – where the piano sat with the cover open like an invitation. I slid onto the bench, fiddled with classical pieces, started a ragtime tune that made me feel like an imposter, and finally gave in to what I wanted to play.

Two chords from my left hand, while that mournful D wafted high above. Back and forth, that one note as my mooring, I let myself drift.

Maybe I had never really felt anything before. I didn’t remember being upset when Frank and my father went away, though I sure missed them now. Charlie seemed to have opened a door in my heart, and behind it was a room full of melancholy.

I cannot say how long I sat there, repeating myself on those keys. As evening came on, the room grew dark and eventually the reverie broke. When I stopped playing, the immediate sensation was not of relief or catharsis, but embarrassment: My mother had been in the next room that whole time, listening to me carry on with my two chords.

I marched into the kitchen, ready to say I don’t know what. She was sitting at the table, the newspaper crumpled in her lap, tears streaming down her face.

It stopped me like a crossing guard with his hand up. “Are you all right?”

She shook her head. “No. I’m not all right, and neither are you.” “What do you mean?” She wiped her face roughly on her sleeve. “Little girl, we need to change some things around here. Both of us. We can’t keep on like this.”

Copyright © 2020 by Stephen P. Kiernan

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

As a journalist and novelist, Stephen P. Kiernan has published nearly four million words. His newspaper work garnered more than forty awards — including the George Polk Award and the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.

Stephen’s newest novel, UNIVERSE OF TWO, will be out May 5, 2020. He is also author of the novels THE CURIOSITY (now in television series development), THE BAKER'S SECRET (a regional Indie bestseller), and THE HUMMINGBIRD. He has also written two nonfiction books, LAST RIGHTS and AUTHENTIC PATRIOTISM. His work has been translated into many languages.

Stephen was born in Newtonville, NY the sixth of seven children. A graduate of Middlebury College, he received a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has chaired the board of the Young Writers Project, served on the Vermont Legislative Committee on Pain and Palliative Care, and served on the advisory board of the New Hampshire Palliative Care Initiative. He has spoken and consulted around the country about hospice, palliative care and advance directives.

A performer on the guitar since he was ten years old, Stephen has recorded 3 CDs of solo instrumentals, and composed music for dance, the stage and documentary films.

He lives in Vermont with his two amazing sons.
Author Links:
TWITTER:  @StephenPKiernan  
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