Review: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II ~ Denise Kiernan

atomic cityISBN ~ 978-1451617528
Publisher ~ Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~ 373 pages
Links ~ The Girls of Atomic City, Amazon, Indie Bound, Simon & Schuster

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.

Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

3 Thumbs-UpAs part of my attempt to widen my reading scope, I started on the non-fiction journey with this book.  From the synopsis I felt it would cover a lot of my interests; WWII, women’s roles during that time and the uncovering of a war work that was kept secret at the time.

In a lot of senses this book did hit all those things on the head, but it still felt lacking in a way that I could not quite put my finger on.  Covering a variety of young, and not so young, women from a variety of societal and ethnic backgrounds this book managed to paint a very real picture of what life must have been like living and working on a top-secret compound in the middle of nowhere.  Although no one woman’s life was written about in detail and depth, I felt that this did not detract from the book in any way as I felt to have done so would most likely have resulted in the omission of something else.

In this books pages the reader can learn about the process of both thought and scientific work that led up to the deployment of fat man and little boy, and the scientific parts of the book that traces the journey and developed of tubealloy, as it was called, is informative and educational without being dry and dusty; not being a chemistry or engineering buff myself I found I learnt a lot from these parts of the book.

There are some wonderful black and white photographs in this book that help illustrate the vastness of the place called Oak Ridge, and also some then and now pictures of three of the women mentioned in the book.  It would have been nice to see some now pictures of the site to see what had become of the place rather than have to do an internet search to satisfy my curiosity.

It is apparent from the way in which the book is written, that the Author spent an extensive amount of time research the topic and talking with those who were there at the time; I wonder if my feeling of something being lacking in its pages, and the reason for my 3 thumbs review, being a result of some information that would have filled these ‘gaps’ still being sealed to the researcher.  Another reason for my 3 thumbs review was the random and rather silly typos that appeared in the book.  These could easily have been picked up by a more skilled proof reader and editor, and lifted my review rating.

Despite the low rating I would still recommend this book to any reader interested in this era, and wanting a satisfying and easy read.


Review: D*E*D Dead ~ Larry ‘Animal’ Garner

DEDD*E*D Dead is the tale of a man whose conscience makes him take on his motorcycle club for their manufacture and sale of crystal meth, coupled with their use of young girls to fill their pockets with cash. His efforts leave the Club in disarray, members hiding from the law and each other.

It’s 1990, before cell phones and the internet. Leaving Virginia with a vague idea of hiding out at a friend’s house in southern Tennessee, he’s on the run, hiding from the Club, the Cops, and the Feds, he uncovers a plot to upset the balance of power in the northern Alabama/southern Tennessee meth trade.

Joined by his old Navy buddy and a small group of locals, including a pair of strong, capable women, our protagonist is once again plotting ways to dismantle the Club’s illegal empire. This time, he has help!

Join in as this crew hits back at those who have ruined the lives of many of their friends, neighbors, and family.

One thing is certain; people are liable to end up dead, D-E-D, DEAD!

3 Thumbs-Up

If the thought of anyone dropping the F-bomb makes you die a little inside, then you are well advised to give this book a very wide berth.  If it doesn’t bother you all that much then put on body armour and jump right in, as this book has F-bombs exploding liberally throughout its pages.  The reason for this is quite clear, the book in set in the world of outlawed motorcycle clubs, think Sons of Anarchy but 100 times worse and depraved.  There is sex, drugs, strip clubs and violence; lots of violence and not pretty either.  There are scenes of gang rape and drug production; so you can see this novel is not for the faint of heart or people with a sensitive stomach.

There really isn’t a great deal of back-story to any of the characters in this book but then again they are all, for the most part, criminals and the readers probably know as much about them as the other members of their respective MCs know, as they progress through the novel.  I didn’t think this lack of character development detracted from this book at all, rather it added to its rough and gritty feel and to have ‘fluffed’ them out would have pulled some of the reality from the topic.  The main lead again is not very deep all we find out about him are bits and pieces, mainly that he’s ex-military.  The one thing I did find a little unbelievable was, after being involved with his club for so long, he suddenly gained a conscience and decides to act on morals that, up until this point he really had not shown.  I was hoping that because the book was written in the first person, present tense point of view I may have been able to pick up hints as to what the main lead was really like, but this was not to be the case.

The scene setting was excellently written but, I felt, that it did not make up for the length of the book which is 600 pages; and this is the major downfall of the book.  There are only so many diner meals we can read through without wanting to never visit any diner again; and does the reader really need a blow-by-blow account of the interstate route our main character is going to take travelling?  I feel a really good editor would have told the Author to lose at least half of the pages, and it would still have been a very good read.  As it stands it is fast paced and urgent in parts and almost comatose in others.   On the plus side though, the Author is one of a dying breed out there today, who actually writes in proper sentences bringing them to a conclusion not just chopping them off willy nilly.  This helps project a raw and reckless quality to the way the characters are living.  The Authors experience of this world, although not with an outlawed club, shines through in his writing and brings an extra touch of realism to the pages.

If not for the editing issues, and the sheer yawn factor of its length, I would have rated this higher; but I would still recommend it as a good adult read, but definitely not for the overly sensitive or the politically correct crowd.