FICTION

The Atomic City Girls

Morrow. Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062666710. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062666727. F
COPY ISBN
In 1944, the town of Oak Ridge, TN, doesn't technically exist, yet it is home to thousands of workers racing to build the first atomic bomb. Beard's (Beneath the Pines) new historical novel focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project. The production facility is a nice place to live and work for white country girls wanting good wages, but it's a slum with atrocious living conditions for segregated black workers. Eighteen-year-old farm girl June Walker is thrilled to be at Oak Ridge, but she doesn't know the true purpose of her work and is warned never to discuss details. Her affair with physicist Sam Cantor and his drunken slip of the tongue about the bomb test her loyalty. In exchange for higher wages, construction worker Joe Brewer endures substandard accommodations, separation from his family, and a tragedy that strikes a young friend fighting for equal rights. America's fight for freedom and dignity across the globe is sharply contrasted with blatant racism and injustice at home.
VERDICT Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly'sLilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]

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