The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

AT THE HEIGHT OF WORLD WAR II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians–many of them young women from small towns across the South–were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war–when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed.

Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it–women who are now in their eighties and nineties– The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country’s history.

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I picked this book up because I’d read Radium Girls and I wanted another book in the same vein.  I’m glad I found this book. I learned a lot about the Oak Ridge facility and Tubealloy. I knew some things about the Manhattan Project, but this brought it all home.

Someone had to make the materials for the bomb. These men and women did, but they weren’t allowed to talk about it. I can’t imagine living and working in a situation where you can’t talk about what you do and if you do talk, you can get into a lot of trouble. Craziness.

The author sticks right to the main players and lets the ladies and men of Oak Ridge do the talking. I was sucked right into the story and couldn’t put it down.

Like I said, I learned things I didn’t know–such as women involved with the creating of Tubealloy and mentioning more than once that the bomb, as well as the ingredients, were dangerous. There were women who should’ve been included on the Pulitzer Prize for that event.

If you want a book that will make you think, remind you it’s good not to have to deal with mud and show the possibilities of Americans during the second world war, then this might be the book for you.

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