The Girls of Atomic City | Book Review

Author - Denise Kiernan
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 5th, 2013, by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Description from Goodreads:
The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.
The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!
But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.
Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

My Thoughts:
I love history and I love wartime stories.  I usually pick historical romance but I had to pick this up after it was compared to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  (A book everyone should read.)
This book was so interesting.  It is a collection of stories from real women that worked in Oak Ridge during the WWII.  If you don't know the history behind it, it is pretty simple.  Women were brought to Oak Ridge, TN, from all over the South.  They were promised more money than they could make anywhere else and the fact that they would be helping a secret project that would end the war.  So - they went and didn't ask questions.  The women and men working in Oak Ridge had no idea what they were really making or how it helped to the way until the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.  After finding out what they worked on, they also had to live with the consequences.  
I loved hearing the stories of the women.  It was not hard to believe that in the time period they didn't ask questions.  I think that it would be impossible in today's age of information to not know what you were working on.  But in the 1940's in the height of the war, I think many women would have seen the choice to move there as a no brainier.  More money and helping the war.  What other choice could they make?
I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone that loves history and the personal accounts that tell so much more than we learned in history class.


  1. This sounds like an extremely interesting read! I had never heard of Oak Ridge before.

  2. Oh wow! I live only a hour and a half away from Oak Ridge and I never knew any of this! I'm definitely going to read this book!

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book! I will have to pick it up!


  4. This does sound really interesting. I tend not to read a ton of non-fiction, but whenever I do, I normally wind up enjoying it. Will definitely need to look out for this one.


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