cover image The Atomic City Girls

The Atomic City Girls

Janet Beard. Morrow, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-266671-0

Beard’s satisfying second novel (after Beneath the Pines) gives a human dimension to the lesser-known true-life events that took place in Oak Ridge, Tenn., during World War II. Eighteen-year-old June Walker leaves her family and simple upbringing behind to work at the brand-new Oak Ridge facility (where security is tight and breaches aren’t tolerated), learning to turn dials on machines whose function she doesn’t understand. Her roommate, the glamorous Cici Roberts, makes finding a husband her priority. In the bare-bones segregated hutments that house African-American workers, Joe Brewer works tirelessly while pining for his family back home. Meanwhile, June starts a romance with physicist Sam Cantor, who is working to produce uranium for the atomic bomb being developed in Los Alamos. As June learns more about the project, she must reconcile her own part in it with her love for the increasingly volatile Sam, who comes from a very different world. Beard’s fascinating narrative brings to life four people with different outlooks and dreams whose fates memorably intertwine. (Feb.)