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I left this book in my wish list for a long time. The reviews are somewhat mixed, so I'm glad I took a chance on it. In order to set the stage for the story Ms Kiernan wants to tell there is some background information about scientific discoveries and events leading up to the need to build a facility to separate and purify uranium isotopes.
As a baby boomer I felt like I had some historical context for the events that lead up to the building of the Bomb. I had heard about some of the day to day hardships experienced by people on the "home front" with rationing and scarcity for all the people, and employing women in "Rosie the Riveter" jobs for the first time.
The vast majority of the book is based on interviews with women and men who were recruited to work at the "Clinton Engineering Works". It is told from their point of view. These individuals ranged from women college graduates with science backgrounds to recent high school graduates from nearby appalachian towns to army recruits literally pulled off troop trains bound for battlefield deployments. Many were recruited without knowing the location of the facility. Instead of a modern, clean facility, think mud with wood plank sidewalks.
Oak Ridge was literally built up around these recruits and shrouded in an unimaginable cloak of secrecy. All information about the jobs these people were hired to do was doled out on a need to know basis, so the vast majority had no idea that they were working on the bomb, even the girls who ran the uranium collectors and the chemists who assayed the product for purity.
I did appreciate the stories Ms Kiernan collected from the recollections of the day to day activities of these folks, many of whom had brothers in combat. She was able to record many of their reflections after learning that their efforts resulted in unleashing the destructive forces of the bomb. Just like others of their generation, these women and men are dying off. It's hard to believe that the American public will ever again mobilize to such an extent for any cause, so that makes these stories even more valuable.
The narration could have been better but did not detract from the audiobook.
42 of 43 people found this review helpful
there are many non-fiction books on Americans experience during WWII but none have affected me as much as The Girls of Atomic City. The author, Denise Kiernan, managed to take the readers though the exciting story of the highly classified race for the A-bomb while intertwining the lives of the women and men who worked at Oak Ridge. These men and women sacrificed much to help the war effort and im glad Kiernan has preserved their accounts for us to read.
This story stirred two conflicting emotions in me the reader. First, pride in what others before us have done and humility in the sacrifice they made in the face of fear and uncertainty.
Parents, add this book to your teenagers' reading list to supplement their American history studies.
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85 of 89 people found this review helpful