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Publisher's Summary

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.
©2013 Denise Kiernan (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Vanessa on 06-20-14

Not told very well, but interesting nonetheless

What did you like best about The Girls of Atomic City? What did you like least?

I like that it focused on the women who helped create the atomic bomb. I didn't like the way it was told. It was difficult to keep track of the characters as well as the science.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The most interesting aspect of the story was how people dealt with uncertainty and the unknown. The least interesting aspect of the story was listening to some of the women's experiences.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?


Was The Girls of Atomic City worth the listening time?


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21 of 21 people found this review helpful

By Jane Mcdowell on 01-14-14

More than Just the Girls

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.

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38 of 39 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By David on 03-17-15

Fascinating insight into the lives of those women

Narrated beautifully. Fascinating stories. Also as a scientist, intriguing as the secretive picture is slowly built until the big reveal.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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