BookBrowse Reviews Yellowcake by Ann Cummins

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Yellowcake

A Novel

by Ann Cummins

Yellowcake by Ann Cummins X
Yellowcake by Ann Cummins
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Cummins brilliantly conflates the insidious damage wrought by radiation sickness with the maladies of the soul caused by prejudice, poverty, nature's abuse, and love's betrayal

The setting is the American Southwest in the area known as the Four Corners (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet). The year is 1991; it's been at least twenty years since most of the uranium mines and mills on the Colorado Plateau closed, taking with them employment for both local "Anglos" and Navajos, but the effects of the industry are still being felt - physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Ryland Mahoney, a former foreman at the uranium mine, is now dependent on an oxygen tank, and worries that he won't be strong enough to give away his daughter at her impending wedding, but he refuses to connect his former employment with his current health. Woody Atcitty, a Navajo, is seriously ill with cancer, and Woody's daughter and Ryland's wife are part of a group demanding compensation from the mining company. Sam, who worked with Ryland in the mill and breathed in the same radioactive dust, seems healthy enough but has other problems to deal with - a divorce that was apparently never finalized and a son just out of prison.

Yellowcake is a multigenerational saga told from five different viewpoints. Cummins is far more interested in exploring her characters' complex lives and emotions than she is on writing a polemic on the uranium industry. Having said that, she does have a personal interest in the subject. She grew up in the Colorado Plateau area and her father (now dead, after a nine-year illness) was a mill worker at a uranium mine on the Navajo reservation, where Cummins lived and attended school for nine years. Her initial intent was to write a story based on her parents' marriage with the uranium industry for the plot, but she found her characters developed lives of their own and soon matured into wholly unique people. At the suggestion of her editor, she broadened the story's point of view to include other characters, allowing her to take the story out of the sick room and into the broader landscape.

The result is a novel that is both compassionate and wise, that not only explores the legacy of radiation sickness but also illness and aging, and the misunderstandings that can arise between generations and cultures.

Ann Cummins is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and University of Arizona writing programs, and the author of the short story collection Red Ant House, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best Book of the Year. She has had her stories published in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Quarterly West, and the Sonora Review, among other publications, as well as The Best American Short Stories 2002. She divides her time between Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, and Flagstaff, Arizona, where she teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.

This review was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.