Review: The Girls of Atomic City
What would you do if someone approached you and told you they needed your help with the war effort and then went on to explain that they couldn’t tell you what you’d be doing or where you’d be doing it? Thousands of women were approached in just that way during World War II and, amazingly, many of them accepted, boarding trains without knowing their final destination and leaving their homes with nothing but faith in the government.
These women came from near and far and from all walks of life and converged on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a town that seemed to spring up overnight. They were each assigned a job and only told what they needed to know to perform it. They were forbidden to talk about what they were doing and were even encouraged to report others who did. These women worked hard and mostly without complaint because they were convinced what they were doing was going to make a difference and help end the war.
In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan highlights some of these women and shares what it was like for them before, during, and after their work in Oak Ridge and, for the most part, I found this book fascinating. As she tells the story of these women (and some men), Kiernan also includes some scientific details about the project and, I have to admit, much of that was over my head. Luckily, those details only make up a small portion of the book so they didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.
What I loved about this book was that it put a face on these workers and told the human side of the story of the huge undertaking known as The Manhattan Project. I found the women to be intriguing and admired their bravery and positive attitudes. They didn’t always work or live under great conditions but they generally made the best of it. In many ways they were trailblazers! I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful narrative non-fiction book!
It’s obvious this book is well researched – Kiernan includes a list of the Principal Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book but, after the first few chapters, I didn’t need to refer to it much. She also includes Notes in the back – I only skimmed these but loved the notes about the women she met during her research. If you enjoy stories about ordinary people in history you won’t want to miss The Girls of Atomic City! Watch for a giveaway coming soon!