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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Atomic City Girls.... #BookReview

About the book:
In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

I worked at a National Laboratory for 15 years. My father worked there for 32. We were in California, but I had contacts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I am familiar with security clearances and secrecy. I am aware of much of the history of the Labs and which ones did what work.

National laboratories are like their own little cities and I loved this inside look at the beginnings of Oak Ridge. The girls who were hired to operate machines, but who had no idea why or what those machines did. The scientists working so hard to create something that was destructive yet deemed necessary. The workers who built and cleaned and were simply grateful for employment, but who chafed at mistreatment, simply because of their skin color.

Stories about strong women are my favorites and The Atomic City Girls did not disappoint. June is fantastic: young and a bit naive, but strong when she needs to be. As she learned more about what Oak Ridge was really doing, those parts became my favorites. Seeing her learn and understand the science and the purpose of the machine in regards to uranium, was so refreshing. I enjoyed seeing names dropped that I am familiar with: Lawrence and Teller and Oppenheimer.

The novel revolves around several people whose lives all end up intertwined. June needs a job and enjoys the social life that comes with it; Sam is a scientist who wants to help end the war. Joe just wants to provide for his family and avoid drawing undue attention to himself.

One of the things I appreciated most about this story is the conflict. Some who helped create the atomic bomb, were happy to see it used. Others understood that many innocents would die and lives destroyed because of it. Not everything is black and white, especially during war.

An enthralling story with historical photos, an epilogue and author's note.

Thanks to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Janet Beard on her website and follow her on Facebook.

Read 10/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. A story I knew nothing about. It has piqued my interest. Thank you for the review.

    1. Thank you. It is a fascinating look at a unique viewpoint of America's role in WW2.