"The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating and compelling novel about a little-known piece of WWII history."—Maggie Leffler, international bestselling author of The Secrets of Flight
In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.
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.
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.
The Atomic City Girls
Enjoyed the book very much, the characters and subject matter were very true to life.
This is a great book about the history of Oak Ridge during World War 2. The facts of what was happening were intertwined in this novel. Enjoyable reading while learning more about this time in history.