Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times
bestseller, now available in paperback — an incredible true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb.
At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not appear on any map. Thousands of civilians, many of them young women from small towns across the U.S., were recruited to this secret city, enticed by the promise of solid wages and war-ending work. What were they actually doing there? Very few knew. The purpose of this mysterious government project was kept a secret from the outside world and from the majority of the residents themselves. Some wondered why, despite the constant work and round-the-clock activity in this makeshift town, did no tangible product of any kind ever seem to leave its guarded gates? The women who kept this town running would find out at the end of the war, when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed and changed the world forever.
Drawing from the voices and experiences of the women who lived and worked in Oak Ridge, The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of World War II from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage.
"Fascinating...Kiernan has amassed a deep reservoir of intimate details of what life was like for women living in the secret city, gleaned from seven years of interviews and research....Rosie, it turns out, did much more than drive rivets."
The Washington Post
"Kiernan...brings a unique and personal perspective to this key part of American history....Instead of the words of top scientists and government officials, Kiernan recounts the experiences of factory workers, secretaries, and low-level chemists in a town that housed at its peak 75,000 people trained not to talk about what they knew or what they did. She combines their stories with detailed reporting that provides a clear and compelling picture of this fascinating time."
The Boston Globe
"Kiernan's focus is on the intimate and often strange details of work and life at Oak Ridge. It's told in a novelistic style and is an intimate look at the experiences of the young women who worked at Oak Ridge and the local residents whose lives were changed by the presence of the project."
The San Francisco Book Review
"Kiernan's book, the result of seven years of research and interviews with the surviving 'girls,' sparkles with their bright, WWII slang and spirit, and takes readers behind the scenes into the hive-like encampments and cubicles where they spent their days and nights....The Girls of Atomic City brings to light a forgotten chapter in our history that combines a vivid, novelistic story with often troubling science."
"A fresh take on the secret city built in the mountains of Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II....An inspiring account of how people can respond with their best when called upon."
"Kiernan snugly fits original research into the creation story of Oak Ridge and should engage readers interested in both women's history and the background of the atomic bomb."
"This intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history will appeal to a broad audience."
About the Author
Denise Kiernan is the author of several books, including The Girls of Atomic City, Signing Their Lives Away, and Signing Their Rights Away. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Discover, Village Voice, Ms., and other national publications. Visit her at DeniseKiernan.com.