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Manhattan Beach

Cover: 'Manhattan Beach'

Staff Review: "Manhattan Beach" by Jennifer Egan

★★★★★

Anna Kerrigan is an observant twelve-year-old who enjoys going with her father, Eddie, on his visits for his work, unaware that he works as a bagman for an Irish gangster. She knows something is different when they visit the home of Dexter Styles, a nightclub owner with syndicate ties and a society marriage, for the first and only time at Manhattan Beach. Her father disappears a few years later, and now, at the age of nineteen, Anna is supporting her mother and severely disabled sister, Lydia, through her work inspecting parts at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. World War II had opened up previously unheard of employment opportunities for women, and Anna sets her sights on a particularly exclusive profession—diving (for salvage/underwater repairs on battleships), and her mettle is tested as she fights to even have a chance to train. While out on the town with a work acquaintance, Anna sees Dexter Styles and is reminded of that long ago visit and wonders what he may know of her father’s disappearance. Is Anna prepared for the truth about her father? Is it worth the risk? This is a wonderful work of historical crime fiction that immerses readers in 1930s and 1940s Manhattan. (You’ll also feel like you’ve been immersed with Anna in the waters of the shipyard with the exquisite care taken to describe the nature of diving at that time.) Narrating duties are split between Anna, Eddie, and Dexter, who share a penchant for risky pursuits and careful calculations. Egan deftly explores all three characters, but the focal point for me is Anna, a wonderfully complex character whose moxie in the face of hardship and obstacles is impressive, if occasionally reckless. This book is recommended for fans of Dennis Lehane, World War II historical fiction, or historical crime fiction. The audiobook is also excellent.

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

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