Imagine you have survived the Great Depression, and now are watching your brothers, cousins, and neighbors go off to fight in World War II. Then imagine being approached to see if you would work on a secret government project in a location that isn’t listed on any map. Thousands of men and women took the government up on their job offer, and moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Some of the workers were skilled, others were simple high school graduates. All of them wanted to be able to work on something that would contribute to the war effort. Each person was given only one specific thing to do, didn’t know what others were doing, and was not told what the finished product would be. Everything the workers said, did, or wrote was monitored. Those who were too curious would be quietly removed from the town, and prevented from getting another government job.
The book focuses on 16 women that worked in this government-made city. Housing conditions were deplorable for most, the factories ran 24 hours a day, and they had to stand in line for rationed food and other necessities. Many people could not psychologically handle the heavily regulated and controlling atmosphere, and quit. But thousands of others stayed, and demonstrated total devotion to the job. At it’s peak, the city had 75,000 workers.
I enjoyed the book, but it jumped around a lot between the 16 women, making it a challenge to keep them all straight. It also contained some sections that were quite technical. If you understand chemistry well you will appreciate these sections. If not, you may want to just skim over them. This was definitely a book worth reading, as it gives an inside picture of the folks fighting the war at home during World War II.