Monday, May 21, 2018

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

In this wartime New York novel, a girl's life intersects repeatedly with that of a gangster nightclub owner.

Anna Kerrigan first encounters Dexter Stiles as a child, with her father Eddie in one of his shady business meetings. Year later - with Eddie long gone - Anna has become a Navy yard worker and encounters Dexter again in one of his clubs. It's a captivating story of a woman forced to grow up early and her desire to work outside the bounds of what "girls" were allowed to do.

But the story isn't just Anna's - it's told in turns by Dexter, Eddie, and Anna. Therefore, you get the backstory of how crime pays, how shady deals happen, and what motivates each of the men. You also get a couple perspectives on the Kerrigan family, who are anchored by Anna's adored and severely disabled sister. Interestingly, the audiobook is a multi-cast recording with three narrators.

The ending was maybe a little too neatly tied for my taste, but overall I enjoyed the book immensely. It's always interesting to ponder the lives of women in the past and the struggles they faced, especially those offered a bit of unusual freedom during the wars.

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