Publisher's Note:  

Now a New York Times Bestseller!


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.

As heard on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition.
One of Goodreads' Most Popular Books of March 2013.
One of Amazon's Editors' Picks for Best Books of the Month (History)
One of Amazon's Editors' Picks for Best Books of the Month (Nonfiction)
One of Amazon's Big Spring Books (History)

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

by Denise Kiernan

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Overall Review:  

The Girls of Atomic City is a fascinating read. I suspect many readers (myself included) know little to nothing about Oak Ridge, Tennessee, so this well-written novel opened up a whole new world to me. Author Denise Kiernan creates an engaging narrative from the letters and reminiscing of nine young women living and working in Oak Ridge during World War II. The chapters alternate between the firsthand accounts and the more factual information about the science and history behind the atomic bomb itself.


The Girls of Atomic City is a meticulously researched book with a lot of scientific terminology and research. Despite the immense and scholarly subject matter, Kiernan makes the tale both readable and interesting. The book's photographs and list of characters were an added bonus. I loved reading how these women each had a role in building the world's first atomic bomb -- subsequently ending the war and bringing fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons back home. I highly recommend this book!

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  3 religious exclamations, 5 mild obscenities, 1 derogatory name


Violence/Gore:  Several secondhand reports of violence regarding warfare and being smacked at school; a scene of destruction of property with no casualties (the bomb is tested); non-detailed scenes of violent death involve dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan, a tubealloy accident, men shot, radiation poisoning and a train accident. 


Sex/Nudity:  A few sexual references.

Mature Subject Matter:  

War, death, racism, moral responsibility, displacement, sacrifice.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Various characters drink and smoke; a page details drinking choices.

Reviewed By Rachel
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