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?
Atomic Anna is a story about family, mistakes, and second chances. Part historical fiction and part science fiction novel, Atomic Anna follows three women of the same family as they try to stop Chernobyl with a time machine.
While Atomic Anna discusses heavy topics at times, I could not put it down. Rachel Barenbaum’s writing enchanted me while I grew immersed in Anna, Yulia, Molly, and Raisa’s stories. There is a decent amount of science in this book, but Barenbaum did a solid job making it understandable to the common reader. She also managed to write a book that is both plot- and character-driven – my favorite.
Despite their flaws and mistakes, the characters were endearing. They are written in a way that depicts their humanity, and there is context to better understand their choices. I felt like I grew to know the characters as I was captivated by their stories.
As Atomic Anna is a story about time travel, there is quite a bit of jumping around in time. However, Barenbaum did a great job handling this. So much so, that I did not need to necessarily pay close attention to the dates. In addition to the dates, Barenbaum includes time in relation to a big event in the book. It really helped me keep track of things, and it is something I have wished other authors would do.
I was worried as Atomic Anna drew towards the end that I would feel it was unfinished or was left hanging. However, I was very satisfied with the ending.
Overall, Atomic Anna is a book about brilliant, strong women that I thoroughly enjoyed. I highly recommend it, and I suggest that you set a good chunk of time to read it, as it took me some time to get through.
April 5, 2022
Note: I received gifted copy of this book from the publisher, Grand Central Publishing. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.