By Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan’s previous novel, the Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, was a dazzling, post-modern high-wire act. What would she do next? Too smart to try to outdo herself, she did research — lots and lots of research — mostly revolving around the mysteries of the deep. At every turn, there is water and the people who make their living and support a war on and in it: longshoremen, divers, merchant marine, sailors, the women who do the jobs left by the men who’ve gone to war, the men who stoke the boiler, and the men who know where the bodies are buried.
At heart, Manhattan Beach is a book about a girl and her father, 11-year-old Anna and Eddie Kerrigan, trying to keep his head above water and his family afloat on the fringes of the New York underworld in the 1930s. Ten years later, the country is at war, Eddie has disappeared, and Anna works in the Brooklyn Naval Yard and yearns to be the first woman to be a diver, doing underwater repairs to the great ships that she sees in the newsreels.
This is a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a war novel, a New York novel, and that all-too-rare phenomenon, a literary page-turner. Jennifer Egan doesn’t let her research overwhelm her literary skills and doesn’t let her story overwhelm her characters. Highly recommended.
A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. A native New Yorker, she moved to Boston to be among her people: family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.