Jennifer Egan is definitely an author I want to read again. Her 1917 novel, set in WWII, has many appeals: excellent characterization, accurate and fascinating peeks into the era, family mystery and dynamics, a coming-of-age-story, and many more “touches” that make it a “darned good read.” I literally stayed up late reading it.
Anna Kerrigan, the protagonist is twelve at the beginning; she is with her father, whom she idolizes, when she first meets Dexter Styles, the mystery man with gangster ties. Lydia, her crippled sister, is the center of her mother’s love and attention. Anna eventually becomes one of the first female divers at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and she repairs ships, making them battle-ready in wartime. The “under-stories,” the father’s story and the mother’s story, and Styles’ story are equally as interesting as Anna’s.
The writing in this novel is outstanding. At times, Egan makes us shiver with apprehension; at times we smile or chuckle at a funny passage; always, we keep reading, wanting to discover the next thought or plot twist. We care about the characters and what happens to them–and plenty does. It is a wonderful story that would make a great movie, and I recommend you “read the book first.”