Reviews of Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum

Atomic Anna

by Rachel Barenbaum

Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum X
Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2022, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of A Bend in the Stars, an epic adventure as three generations of women work together and travel through time to prevent the Chernobyl disaster and right the wrongs of their past.

Three brilliant women.
Two life-changing mistakes.
One chance to reset the future.


In 1986, renowned nuclear scientist, Anna Berkova, is sleeping in her bed in the Soviet Union when Chernobyl's reactor melts down. It's the exact moment she tears through time—and it's an accident. When she opens her eyes, she's landed in 1992 only to discover Molly, her estranged daughter, shot in the chest. Molly, with her dying breath, begs Anna to go back in time and stop the disaster, to save Molly's daughter Raisa, and put their family's future on a better path.

In '60s Philadelphia, Molly is coming of age as an adopted refusenik. Her family is full of secrets and a past they won't share. She finds solace in comic books, drawing her own series, Atomic Anna, and she's determined to make it as an artist. When she meets the volatile, charismatic Viktor, their romance sets her life on a very different course.

In the '80s, Raisa, is a lonely teen and math prodigy, until a quiet, handsome boy moves in across the street and an odd old woman shows up claiming to be her biological grandmother. As Raisa finds new issues of Atomic Anna in unexpected places, she notices each comic challenges her to solve equations leading to one impossible conclusion: time travel. And she finally understands what she has to do.

As these remarkable women work together to prevent the greatest nuclear disaster of the 20th century, they grapple with the power their discoveries hold. Just because you can change the past, does it mean you should?

Excerpt
Atomic Anna

April 1986
Soviet Union

The scientist Anna Berkova was asleep in her narrow bed in Pripyat, the closed city that housed workers from Chernobyl. She was cold, but then again, she was always cold. The walls in her building were thin. Damp and wind clawed through cracks and she huddled under blankets to escape them. She had fallen asleep working on the amplifier she hoped would increase efficiency at the nuclear power plant, the prototype lying on her chest. It was small and crude, a circuit board covered with diodes and capacitors. She didn't hear the explosion or feel the catastrophic shudder as Reactor No. 4 ripped apart, its insides flayed, releasing the most dangerous substances known to man. Nor did she witness the shock of light that stabbed the dark, because at that exact moment Anna tore through time. It was her first jump—and it was an accident.

When she opened her eyes, she was on her back in the snow, alone, on a mountain, clutching the smoking ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. At the beginning of Atomic Anna, Yulia and Lazar believe that "we can be anything in America." Discuss the reasons why they buy into this and the way this belief changes for them over time. What do these characters want for themselves and for Molly?
  2. The idea of assimilation is a strong thread throughout the novel and is present for every character. What effect does this assimilation have on Anna's, Yulia's, Molly's, and Raisa's lives? Discuss how the idea of assimilation is relevant in your life or in today's landscape.
  3. Throughout Atomic Anna, Molly and Anna both struggle with the intersections of their identities—Soviet, Jewish, and, in Molly's and Raisa's case, American. Describe the ways their identities are in flux or ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Part science fiction thriller, part family drama, Atomic Anna is a unique blend of what's best about these genres. Barenbaum has created three generations of flawed but relatable women who must learn to live with the choices of their mothers and the resulting circumstances. The inclusion of time travel provides an intriguing science element as well as a ticking clock to push the characters to find the solutions to their problems. Readers of science fiction, historical fiction and multigenerational family novels will find themselves captivated by Anna, Molly and Raisa's story...continued

Full Review (613 words).

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(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

BookPage
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.

New York Times
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 — one has to imagine an enormous whiteboard was involved as the author charted out what any given move might set in motion, each outcome with its own stack of connected dominoes.

Kirkus Reviews (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.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.

Author Blurb Anna Solomon, author of The Book of V
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.

Author Blurb Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept
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.

Author Blurb Téa Obreht, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Inland
Atomic Anna is a dazzling work of ingenuity and imagination.

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Beyond the Book

The Soviet Atomic Bomb Project

Replica of the Soviet atomic bomb called Joe-1In Atomic Anna, the protagonist Anna Berkova is the Soviet Union's top nuclear scientist. Collaborating with famed German chemist Otto Hahn at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, Anna helps discover nuclear fission, the reaction which serves as the basis for nuclear power. As World War II begins, Anna escapes Germany and returns to her homeland, where she joins the Soviet bomb project to develop a weapon to stop Hitler. Her dedication to her work comes at the cost of her family — and the resulting weapon could take thousands of lives — but Anna refuses to let the science go unstudied.

Although Anna and her role in the project are fictional, the Soviet atomic bomb project is not. Russian scientists began ...

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