cover image An Atomic Romance

An Atomic Romance

Bobbie Ann Mason, . . Random, $24.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50719-9

In her first novel in a decade, set against the backdrop of a Kentucky nuclear power plant, Mason (In Country ; Shiloh and Other Stories ) conjures utterly believable, ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances to take a penetrating look at America's nuclear legacy. Reed Futrell is divorced with two grown kids and still in good shape in his 40s, after having worked for more than 20 years at the uranium enrichment plant—the town's economic backbone. Like his father, who died at the plant in a chemical accident when Reed was a boy, Reed handles dangerous repairs. When news breaks about plutonium leaks at the plant, Reed tries to downplay the risks of his job, and his co-workers fear layoffs. Meanwhile, he clashes with his girlfriend, Julia, a pathologist whose level of outrage about the plant Reed doesn't share. As he and Julia slowly come together despite their disagreements, Reed investigates further and realizes that the company he thinks is taking care of him might not be telling its workers the truth. When both the plant's crisis and the romance come to a head, Mason packs a punch with a light touch, commenting on the missteps of the past and how we have to live with them. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Aug.)