cover image Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Jennifer Egan. Scribner, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1673-2

Pulitzer-winner Egan's splendid novel begins in 1934 Brooklyn as Eddie Kerrigan struggles to support his wife and two daughters, one of whom is severely disabled. He finds work as a bagman, ferrying bribes for a corrupt union official. One day he brings his healthy daughter, Anna, to the Manhattan Beach home of Dexter Styles, a nightclub owner with underworld partners. The 11-year-old can't comprehend their business, but she senses that the two men have become "friends." By the time Anna is 19, Eddie has inexplicably vanished and America is in the Second World War. Working a dull job inspecting ship parts at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Anna seizes the opportunity to become the first female civilian diver there. Around the same time, a second encounter with Dexter Styles raises hopes that he can help untangle the mysteries of her father's disappearance. As the stories eddy through time, Egan makes haunting use of shore and water motifs to balance dense period detail and explore the liminal spaces–between strength and weakness, depth and surface, past and future, life and death–through which her protagonists move. More straightforwardly narrated than some of Egan's earlier work, including the celebrated A Visit from the Goon Squad, the novel is tremendously assured and rich, moving from depictions of violence and crime to deep tenderness. The book's emotional power once again demonstrates Egan's extraordinary gifts. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM Partners. (Oct.)