The Atomic City Girls: A Novel (Paperback)
"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.
About the Author
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard moved to New York to study screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Janet lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she is teaching writing, raising a daughter, and working on a new novel.
“Suspenseful and intriguing...explores an aspect of the Manhattan Project long shrouded in secrecy, bringing to light an important chapter of World War II history.”
— Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
“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
“Both page-turning and illuminating, The Atomic City Girls brings to life an eerie piece of world history.”
— Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles
“Beard has taken a project of momentous impact and injected a human element into it. [...] This is approachable, intelligent, and highly satisfying historical fiction.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“[...] focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project [...] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”
— Library Journal
“Fans of historical fiction will devour this complex and human look at the people involved in the creation of the atomic bomb. A fascinating look at an underexplored chapter of American history.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“The Atomic City Girls explores love, war and patriotism, forcing the reader to consider the devastating effects of Hiroshima. Once readers learn that Beard’s own aunt was one of the workers, the intimate knowledge and specific details of Oak Ridge come to life even more.”
— San Francisco Chronicle