I’m not really into historical fiction but decided to give her new novel a try since it’s the Fort Collins Reads selection. (The event is tomorrow, November 4!) I know that whatever she writes will be amazing. I was right.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.
A haunting, slow-burning noir mystery set during World War II that delves into the thoughts, emotions, and lives of three complex, fascinating characters: Anna; her father, Eddie Kerrigan; and the mysterious Dexter Styles. The time period and setting provide a backdrop against which the stubborn and determined Anna methodically chips away at the challenges of a woman in a man’s world.
(“Angels are the best liars, that’s what I think,” Nell said morosely. After a moment, she asked, “Are you an angel, Anna?” …No one had ever asked her that question before. Everyone simply presumed that she was. “No,” she said. “I’m not an angel.” Her eyes met Nell’s, and they understood each other.)
Anna’s intelligence and quiet, rebellious streak that take her where no woman has gone before. This is a plot-driven literary novel. It’s also a character study of the common man and woman in New York during World War II and the people involved in the “shadow world” of mobsters. If you’re looking for a fast, action-packed story, this book is not for you.
Excerpt – Opening Lines
They’d driven all the way to Mr. Styles’s house before Anna realized that her father was nervous. First the ride had distracted her, sailing along Ocean Parkway as if they were headed for Coney Island, although it was four days past Christmas and impossibly cold for the beach. Then the house itself: a palace of golden brick three stories high, windows all the way around, a rowdy flapping of green-and-yellow-striped awnings. It was the last house on the street, which dead-ended at the sea.
Her father eased the Model J against the curb and turned off the motor. “Toots,” he said. “Don’t squint at Mr. Styles’s house.”
“Of course I won’t squint at his house.”
“You’re doing it now.”
“No,” she said. “I’m making my eyes narrow.”
“That’s squinting,” he said. “You’ve just defined it.”
“Not for me.”
He turned to her sharply. “Don’t squint.”
That was when she knew. She heard him swallow dryly and felt a chip of worry in her stomach. She was not used to seeing her father nervous.
Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel Manhattan Beach was awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco.
Also a journalist, she has written frequently for the New York Times Magazine. Her 2002 cover story on homeless children received a Carrol Kowal Journalism Award, and “The Bipolar Kid” received a 2009 Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two sons. Visit her at www.JenniferEgan.com and scroll to the bottom for a surprise.
Katherine Valdez writes award-winning microfiction as KatValdezWriter at Zathom.com.
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