"Impressive. . . The novel straddles a hybrid genre of historical magical realism." The Japan Times
"Meginnis’s talent is his ability to make the reader feel empathy for souls who killed so many. . . Many pages in this novel feel like engravings . . . Meginnis has written one of the best, most natural novels about the atomic bombs." Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
“[An] imaginative debut. . . Meginnis’ story is both surprising and incisive.” Publishers Weekly
Named one of “the year’s most impressive debut novelists” by the 2014 Brooklyn Book Festival
“An imaginative and surprisingly intimate look at the consequences of our actions and the costs of war.” Library Journal
"In his inventive and fabulist debut novel Fat Man and Little Boy Mike Meginnis lends a surprisingly human dimension to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II." Largehearted Boy
"Throughout Fat Man and Little Boy, Meginnis’s language is luminous and disarmingly spare, whether he is invoking a naturalist moment or a fantastical metamorphosis." Necessary Fiction
"Beguiling, strange, and strangely lovely, Fat Man and Little Boy is a deeply sorrowful yet mysteriously empowering debut."Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers
"Only someone with the deftness of heart of a writer like Mike Meginnis could redefine the war novel into something like Fat Man and Little Boy, a book which translates our basic world of never-ending terror into a highly nuanced and inventive diorama available absolutely nowhere else."Blake Butler, author of Scorch Atlas and There is No Year
"Mike Meginnis is my favorite kind of writerextraordinarily inventive, formally curious, profoundly movingand his Fat Man and Little Boy is a debut of impressive ambition, a reinvention of the historical novel, an existential thriller powered by the booming engines of history, the atom, the human heart." Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods
"In Fat Man and Little Boy, Mike Meginnis takes the mother of all atrocities and makes it strange, sizable, turns it so sideways that we're forced to notice, to take heed. This alone is an achievement, but it's the way he does it that dazzleswith gorgeous, careful prose that gives us human failings and a desperate longing for connection so vividly rendered that we have no choice but drink it in, to reckon once again with this disaster in our own time and way."Amber Sparks, author of The Desert Places and May We Shed These Human Bodies
Bombs become people: That's the premise of this first novel, in which the two U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan convert themselves into human survivors. Little Boy hit Hiroshima, Fat Man Nagasaki; those really were, historically, the bombs' names. In post-apocalyptic Nagasaki, Fat Man is struggling with birth trauma. He's a bloated mass, naked and hairless. Little Boy, a runt, finds him in a shelter and decides they are brothers. Among the ruins, Fat Man says, "I think we were put here for a reason." But what exactly? There's the rub. Meginnis has created an existential problem for which he has no solution. The novel will dip a toe into various genres (science fiction, magical realism, detective story) without settling into any of them. Thus the brothers impregnate a virgin, a farmer's daughter, purely through their proximity. Her babies are stillborn; Fat Man kills her enraged father in self-defense. Through a GI, the brothers procure new identities and board a ship for France, where they're taken in by a married woman. She too, without sexual contact, will bear a child (two-headed). The phenomenon is explained by a Japanese medium. The brothers are haunted by their Japanese victims, who are hoping to be reborn. Not to worry; once the brothers fall in with an American peacenik, a war widow establishing a hotel, there'll be no more unpleasant births. Fat Man will even make a normal baby with Rosie, the widow. Years later, he's still a tub of lard and Little Boy's still a preteen runt, and there's been no development that might absolve them of their guilt or make them agents of atonement. Meanwhile Meginnis has concocted another storyline involving two French cops pursuing the innocent Fat Man for the murders of pregnant women. A bold concept poorly executed.
Inside a bunker, a fat man guarded by Japanese soldiers lies pinkly naked. Something strange is happening: "He remembers how it was to explode. It was everything coming out everywhere. Shit and piss and puke and blood and scream. It was being the world…. It was like being born." Then he's rescued by a skinny little boy who says, "So, you are my brother." Yes, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have come to life and bond closely as they stumble through a smoking, hostile landscape, trying to make sense of the world. Eventually, they flee to France and then America to submerge their dark past. VERDICT Not for fans of routine war novels, this Horatio Nelson Prize winner is an imaginative and surprisingly intimate look at the consequences of our actions and the costs of war.