Barenbaum (A Bend in the Stars) burnishes her reputation as an up-and-coming talent with this audacious time travel story. Anna Berkova, a Soviet nuclear scientist who works at Chernobyl, is asleep on the morning of the meltdown in 1986. The catastrophe transports her to 1992 Mount Aragats, Armenia, where she finds a trail of blood leading to her dying daughter, Manya, who’s been shot. Before dying, Manya reveals that the amplifier her mother was working on had pulled her through a ripple in space-time, and that Berkova must travel farther into the future to save a teenage granddaughter, Raisa, she’s never known. Barenbaum then unfolds the three women’s stories, each of which is laced with tragedy and unfulfilled aspirations. Chapter headings counting down to Manya’s death maintain tension, as her efforts to express herself as a comic book author with Atomic Anna, a superhero modeled on what she knows of her mother, play out against her battle with substance abuse. Raisa, a math prodigy, also must overcome challenges, such as being placed in foster care after Manya’s conviction for drug possession, to reach her potential. The threads build toward a deeply satisfying denouement, and the author uses the sci-fi plot device to explore parent-child relationships and questions about the morality of changing the past. Barenbaum dares greatly, and succeeds. Eve Attermann, WME. (Apr.)
From Barenbaum, author of Barnes & Noble Discover pick A Bend in the Stars, Atomic Anna features a renowned nuclear scientist who is sleeping as Chernobyl melts down in 1986 and rips through time to meet her estranged daughter Molly in 1992, shot in the chest and begging her to go back and change the past (50,000-copy first printing). In Bird's Last Dance on the Starlight Pier, Evie Grace Devlin tries to leave vaudeville behind to become a nurse in 1930s Galveston, TX, but encounters setbacks and instead gets caught up in the shady world of dance marathons; following the Dublin International Literary Award long-listed Above the East China Sea (75,000-copy first printing). In Spur Award-winning Dallas's 1918 Denver-set Little Souls, sisters Helen and Lutie care for the daughter of a flu victim, and an abusive man's murder is covered up by leaving his body on the streets with all the other corpses to be collected (30,000-copy first printing). PEN/Robert W. Bingham finalist Llanos-Figueroa explores 19th-century Puerto Rican plantation society through Pola, A Woman of Endurance, captured in Africa and brought to Puerto Rico to bear babies subsequently taken from her and enslaved (40,000-copy first printing). First in a tetralogy, Scurati's internationally best-selling, Strega Award-winning M.—short for Mussolini—explores the rise of fascism in Italy (40,000-copy first printing). In The Good Left Undone, the New York Times best-selling Trigiana returns to Italy, where Matelda, the dying matriarch of a Tuscan artisan family, reveals her mother's love of the Scottish sea captain that fathered Matelda during World War II.
A Soviet scientist responsible for the Chernobyl disaster invents a time machine so she can change not only that fatal accident, but also her own destiny.
Anna Berkova grew up applying her brilliant scientific and mathematical brain to questions of nuclear power. A star of the Soviet Union, she designed the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, taking care to work through numerous safety protocols. Of course, it’s not enough, and when the reactor melts down on April 26, 1986, her life is only saved by an accidental jump through time. She finds herself in 1992, on top of a mountain, holding a bleeding woman who claims to be the daughter she gave away as an infant and who tells Anna she must use her time-traveling power both to stop Chernobyl and save her own granddaughter. From this striking, emotional beginning—which gives rise to a thousand questions—the novel follows three generations of Anna’s family, itself jumping around in time to explore the lives of Anna, her daughter, Molly, and her granddaughter, Raisa. All three struggle to find their places in the world as talented, strong, independent women, and all three will play a pivotal role in Anna’s quest to change the future—or is it the past?—not only to protect those who perish in the nuclear disaster, but to empower, and ultimately save the lives of, her family. In Barenbaum’s skillful hands, a complex concept and structure work beautifully, as the novel is slowly constructed one painstakingly detailed chapter at a time. The book is an incredible achievement with a heartfelt human theme: It’s never too late to let go of psychological baggage and heal past wounds.
As ambitious as a Greek tragedy and just as lyrical and unflinching.
One of the many wonderful things about Atomic Anna, a book about Chernobyl, yes, but also about comic books, the power of math, finding one’s truth, and love, both biological and found, is the core group of women who ground it… The novel is masterfully plotted.” —New York Times Book Review
“A story of three generations of women and the secret history that binds them, Rachel Barenbaum’s ambitious second novel Atomic Anna moves seamlessly through time and space, from the Russian Revolution to late-20th-century Philadelphia. It’s propulsive and intimate and surprisingly relevant to these past two years, when time has so often felt sharp and amorphous all at once.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“With Atomic Anna, Barenbaum has created a saga that manages to be both sweeping and riveting… Even without the dazzling time travel, these characters and storylines would be compelling. With it, they are transfixing.” —WBUR Arts & Culture
“Just as the romance of epic literature is timeless, Atomic Anna’s demonstration of what may be learned about the human heart is also outside of time, and certainly beyond the ordinary.” —BookPage
“This novel is about the impact that small decisions can have on the lives of many, how one decision, conversation, or action can have a ripple effect and impact generations… Traveling across time, readers experience the connectedness of the women in Anna’s life and how their knowledge, love, and collaboration are their superpowers.” —Jewish Book Council
"Barenbaum burnishes her reputation as an up-and-coming talent with this audacious time travel story... The threads build toward a deeply satisfying denouement, and the author uses the sci-fi plot device to explore parent-child relationships and questions about the morality of changing the past. Barenbaum dares greatly, and succeeds." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“In Barenbaum’s skillful hands, a complex concept and structure work beautifully. The book is an incredible achievement with a heartfelt human theme… As ambitious as a Greek tragedy and just as lyrical and unflinching.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Atomic Anna is an epic adventure, telling us about three generations of Jewish women working together and traveling through time to prevent the Chernobyl disaster and right the wrongs of their past. Their brilliance and determination raises the question: Just because you can change the past, does it mean you should?” —Good Day Sacramento
“A tour de force on an epic scale.” —Lilith
“Atomic Anna is a dazzling work of ingenuity and imagination.” —Téa Obreht, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Inland
"A novel of love, suspense, and nuclear technology. Breathtaking." —Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Our Country Friends
“Deftly plotted and thrillingly paced, Atomic Anna combines unforgettable characters, historical intrigue, and time travel in a remarkable tour de force that shines a new light on an old story. If you’re looking to be transported, this book is for you.” —Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V.
“Epic, ambitious, and gripping, Atomic Anna is a wildly inventive novel that teems with life and grapples with the big questions of science, art, love, and humanity. Rachel Barenbaum is a propulsive writer who takes readers on a journey through time via the lives of three generations of extraordinary women who come together to try to change the course of history and undo the mistakes of their past. Atomic Anna is a trip through time well worth taking. I couldn't put it down.” —Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept
“The only thing I love more than nuclear physics, time travel, comic books and stories with a decided Russia accent, is Barenbaum’s latest splendid novel, a multi-generational tale with strong, passionate female leads. Brilliantly written, it truly makes you believe in the mysteries of both the universe, time, and the human heart.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You
“Rachel Barenbaum is a fiercely talented writer whose latest novel took my breath away. Steeped in the history of the nuclear age, Atomic Anna is a thrilling multigenerational epic that leaps through time and across continents to detail the troubled lives and rich inner worlds of an unforgettable cast of characters. An electrifying novel that holds you in its grip from start to finish, this is one you don’t want to miss.” —Lauren Wilkinson, author of American Spy