The Hideout, by Egon Hostovský

The Hideout

Egon Hostovský’s The Hideout, originally published in the mid-1940s, is another Central European novella rescued from obscurity by Pushkin Press. The novella takes the form of a letter written by a Czech engineer who makes a terrible mistake just before the Germans invade the former Czechoslovakia. He is writing to the wife he left behind with their children in Prague, explaining how he ended up in a cellar in northern France about to go to his death. He begins with why he left and carries on with his misadventures up until the novella cuts off abruptly.

The unnamed engineer begins with an admission that revealed, to me, how hapless and unworldly he is. Just before the world breaks out, the engineer is working on a new kind of anti-aircraft gunsight. It’s not finished, but it’s clear that the invading Germans would be very interested in it. The engineer is—as he tells people who ask—terrified that his military secret will fall into enemy hands. But, as he admits in the letter to his wife, he is rather more interested in catching up with Madame Olga, the Jewish widow that the engineer has been interested in. She goes to Paris and he follows. When the Germans swear out an arrest warrant for him, he lands deep in the soup, deeper than he is prepared to handle.

After he lands in Paris and runs through all the money he brought, the engineer is saved from arrest or immanent death by exposure when he bumps into an old acquaintance. Dr. Aubin, after the engineer tells him of his plight, offers to put the engineer up in his cellar, feed him, and hide him until they can make other arrangements. Dr. Aubin, in a piece of clear foreshadowing, tells the engineer of a cousin who went mad while hiding. This time, the doctor declares, will be different because the engineer will be able to leave whenever he likes. The door won’t be locked.

But for our weak-willed engineer, the promise of instant freedom isn’t enough to stop him from mental suffering. The engineer’s mental state deteriorates as food and supplies get scares. Dr. Aubin works for the Resistance and is frequently called away. The loneliness and the hunger drive the engineer to the brink, until he makes a stunningly stupid mistake.

The Hideout is an interesting journey inside the brain of someone who hide from the Germans that doesn’t follow the usual trajectory of World War II on-the-lam novels. The engineer isn’t Jewish. He’s just a guy who knows a little too much and who is terrible at realizing how dire circumstances are when he flees. Perhaps the best way to describe him is that the engineer is a guy whose life is heavily touched by good and bad (mostly bad) luck. His letter is deeply affecting. Even though he never apologizes for his actions, it’s clear he regrets ever leaving his family.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be published 25 July 2017.

The Epiphany Machine, by David Burr Gerrard

The Epiphany Machine

Along with the quest to find one’s purpose in life, the next biggest challenge a human can face is to figure out who they are and find a way to live with themselves. In David Burr Gerrard’s The Epiphany Machine, we see that struggle over and over as Venter Lowood deals with the fallout from several lifetimes of bad decisions and misunderstandings. At the heart of all these decisions and misunderstandings is the eponymous machine, which tattoos an epiphany on the forearm of anyone who uses it. The epiphanies reveal truths, prophecy fates, and generally disrupt everything. And yet, for a book about figuring things out, The Epiphany Machine is a very satisfying read because it answers so many of the questions posed in its pages.

Venter Lowood was always going to have a screwed up childhood. Both of his parents got epiphany tattoos from Adam Lyons, the owner of the epiphany machine, that informed them that they would be terrible parents. Venter grows up nursing both mother and father issues before he is talked into a job by Lyons himself. For a few years, Venter records the oral histories of people who get tattoos—which then appear between the chapters of the novel—before he is talked out of believing in the powers of the machine by a know-it-all roommate. Once Venter falls out of belief in the machine, he drifts through life following the pushes and prods of the people he meets. But then, what do you expect from someone whose tattoo reads “Dependent on the opinions of others”?

The Epiphany Machine is Venter’s story, but it’s also the story of a group of people whose lives were irreparably changed by the machine. We learn about what happened to John Lennon and Mark David Chapman—who in this world received identical tattoos—the two murderous Rebecca Harts and Venter’s own Rebecca, the curious powers of the machine for identifying (or not) criminals, and how a person’s curiosity about and obliviousness to themselves is universal. After a character receives an epiphany tattoo, there is a stomach-dropping moment when the tattoo is revealed. The character tries to make sense of it. Very rarely does a character feel peace when they work out what their epiphany means. More often there are tears, outrage, or drastic and deadly actions.

All of Venter’s chapters and the oral histories layer on top of one another, providing clues that explain what the epiphanies really meant and how they were so often misinterpreted by their owners. Characters appear in each other’s oral histories so that I got to see what happened to secondary and tertiary characters when an epiphany tattoo derailed their lives. I really enjoyed seeing it all come together by the end. I found this book deeply satisfying since so many loose ends were tied up by the time I got to the end of the book. Usually, I only feel this kind of satisfaction after reading Dickens, who leaves no questions unanswered (though Gerrard delivered answers in far fewer pages).

If nothing else, The Epiphany Machine shows that people are always mysteries until you really listen to them. Adam Lyons, a flawed, vulgar, possible guru, was a master at listening to people. Until we can do that for each other, even having an epiphany tattooed into someone’s forearm won’t help us work out who someone really is. More than that, to unriddle a person, we need to know their stories and the stories of people who appear in the story of the person we want to know. Really knowing someone is a probably impossible linear regression. Fittingly then, I found The Epiphany Machine to be an ouroboros of a novel—just like its characters—and I loved puzzling it out as I read.

I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration. It will be released 18 July 2017.

Bibliotherapeutic Uses: Recommend this for readers who might need their own epiphany because they don’t see something about themselves that they need to see or, perhaps, to readers who spend a little too much time looking for themselves instead of looking at the world and people around them.

The Atlas of Forgotten Places, by Jenny D. Williams

The Atlas of Forgotten Places

Atonement is one of the most difficult things for people to achieve, more so when the person trying to atone is the only one who can forgive. In The Atlas of Forgotten Places, by Jenny D. Williams, several of the main characters are seeking to atone for their own crimes or the crimes of their family members—and they’re trying to do so in the middle of an active war zone as the Ugandan army is routing out members of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The emotional and physical conflicts in this book make for a nail-biting reading experience. Worse, it doesn’t follow the tropes of thrillers, so we don’t know until the very end if the protagonists live or not; there are no guarantees in The Atlas of Forgotten Places.

Sabine Hardt, a former aide worker from Germany, and Rose Akulu, a translator and transcriptionist who was once a captive of the LRA, take turns narrating the novel. Both are seeking someone they lost. In Sabine’s case, she’s looking for her niece after Lily failed to make her flight back to the States from Kampala. Rose is trying to find her lover, Ocen, who disappeared with Lily sometime in the weeks before Christmas, 2008. For the first third of The Atlas for Forgotten Places, the two women work separately to find their lost loved ones. After Sabine meets Rose’s boss, the two women strike a truce and team up to follow the faint trail Lily left behind.

While the two women try to find their lost ones, they each take time to reflect on what brought them to this place and this time: betrayals, lies, atonement. Both Rose and Sabine have had hard lives. In Rose’s case, the hardness came partly from her abduction and years with the LRA and partly from the guilt and grief she’s carried ever since. Sabine became an aide worker because of something that her grandfather did—to say more would spoil the revelation. Now she’s trying to find her niece in part because she wasn’t very supportive of Lily while Lily did her own stint of aide work.

The reflectiveness and uncertainty of The Atlas of Forgotten Places—along with the setting—make for a thriller elevated above the typical emotional shallowness of the genre. It touches on the sorrow and anger that a long civil war causes, the mad stubbornness of the men who wage that war, the seeming futility of aide work, and self-imposed quests for atonement. The Atlas of Forgotten Places refuses the easy path, right to its very last pages.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 11 July 2017.

The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land

Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land is another deep dive into history, though not so deep as in The HistorianIn this lengthy (possibly too lengthy) novel, an American would-be Samaritan accidentally steals an urn from a trio of Bulgarians. This mishap leads Alexandra Boyd all over Bulgaria in an attempt to return the urn, all while being chases by menacing henchmen of a rising politician and trying to learn why the man in the urn is so important. As Kostova writes in her note at the end of the book, this plot serves as a platform to plunge into the history of Bulgaria’s gulag system.

Alexandra has left a depressing set of divorced parents in the Blue Ridge mountains to teach English in Sofia, Bulgaria. She chose Sofia because it was her disappeared brother’s greatest wish to visit the country. Before she even gets to her hostel, Alexandra has a brief encounter with two elderly and one middle-aged Bulgarians. When she realizes she accidentally grabbed one of their bags (which contains a beautiful wooden urn), she does everything she can to return it. All she has to go on is the name on the urn: Stoyan Lazarov. Fortunately for Alexandra, she bumbles into a very useful friendship with a taxi driver, Asparuh, who has a lot more skill in detection that one might expect from the average cab driver. Her only misstep at the outset is to—as any Westerner might—ask the police for help tracing the family.

With the family incommunicado for most of the book, Alexandra and Asparuh end up traveling from Sofia to rural and mountain villages to Plovdiv to the Black Sea coast and back. With each stop, they learn a little bit more why an obscure violinist is of such interest to the politician who might be the next prime minister. The long historical and geographical road trip ends with a fairly spectacular show down in an old forced labor camp.

Unfortunately for us, the full revelations of what’s going on come very late in the book. We have to take the long way round, much like Alexandra and Asparuh. The Shadow Land is a thriller written by a historian. Someone more savvy with the genre’s conventions would have gone through this book like a buzzsaw, trimming unnecessary background (especially the odd first-person chapters in which Alexandra talks about her childhood and missing brother) and possibly a few of the stops. Because Kostova is a historian, moreover a historian with a reputation for writing novels with multiple layers of narrative frames, there are many digressions that are interesting but just slow things down in a plot that should race.

The best parts of The Shadow Land are the rich descriptions of Bulgaria’s varied landscapes, from post-Communist cities to mountains that have been inhabited for centuries. (I particularly loved the story of Baba Yana’s house, though it added only a little to the novel.) I want to go see some of the places Alexandra saw—hopefully not chased by henchmen, though. Some of the secondary characters were wonderful (mostly the old ladies). But by about page 300, I was very ready to be done with The Shadow Land.

The Veins of the Ocean, by Patricia Engel

The Veins of the Ocean

Most of the reviews and summaries I’ve seen for Patricia Engel’s The Veins of the Ocean are, to put it mildly, off-putting. To be fair, the book does open with a horrific, shocking crime and I picked up the book expecting to be about that crime. Instead, I found a meditative book about the consequences of incarceration, captivity, and the prisons we build for ourselves through guilt and obligation. This book is so full of food for thought that I read it in one day.

Reina is a dedicated sister. It’s no wonder that she’s devoted to her brother Carlos, considering that her mother has been on the look out for a new man to keep her since Reina’s father hanged himself after trying to drown Carlos by throwing him off a bridge into the ocean. Even after Carlos commits a similar crime and is sentenced to death, Reina visits and helps pay legal fees for seven years. When Carlos hangs himself in his cell, Reina is cut loose and heads down to the Florida Keys, planning to start a new life where no one knows what her brother did.

All of this happens in the first third of The Veins of the Ocean and serves as a launching point for Reina to come to terms with the tragedies of her family’s past and her role in Carlos’ crime. The narrative and Reina’s mind constant return to what the men in her family have done and Carlos’ time in prison. Reina’s sense of guilt leads her to punish herself, to retreat from relationships and life. It’s only after she meets Nesto in the Keys and starts to work at a dolphinarium that she begins to come out of her self-imposed prison.

The parallels between Carlos’ incarceration and Reina’s punishment of herself grow as we learn more about Nesto’s ties to his family in Cuba and the behavior of a rescued dolphin in the dolphinarium. As the novel developed, I started to see a book that wasn’t so much about the awful choices we face and crimes we might commit, but rather stories that warn against imprisoning living things. The dolphin and Carlos were not meant to be kept in solitary cages; they slowly go bad. Reina and Nesto’s prisons are more complicated, because they are self-imposed. Both of them are deeply tied to their families. Nesto wants his family to escape Cuba the way he did, but he is constantly thwarted by bureaucracy and his ex-wife’s fear of change. Neither he nor Reina can move on with their lives until they learn to let go.

I was very moved by The Veins of the Ocean and will be thinking about it for a long time. Arguing that captivity is destructive is fairly simple, but Engel complicated things for her characters to create rich ethical dilemmas. Carlos killed a child and must be punished. But is locking him in solitary for seven years just? Is the rescued dolphin safer in captivity even though it can’t adjust to the tedium? Should Reina and Nesto cut their ties to family because their families are preventing them from finding happiness? The Veins of the Ocean has so many delicious questions to think about. It’s the kind of book I can see myself pushing on other readers, just so that I have someone to debate with.

Bibliotherapeutic Note: Recommend this book for readers who are trapped by toxic family situations or who otherwise need to learn to put down the burdens that are keeping them stagnant.

Modern Gods, by Nick Laird

Modern Gods

What does religion give us? Most would answer, I think, with comfort, answers to big questions, and so on. In Nick Laird’s Modern Gods, the answer is a lot more cynical. This novel takes a while to approach its thesis, treating us to the domestic dramas of a North Irish family before heading into the wilds of Papua New Guinea to explore an emerging cargo cult. By the end, however, I was left with some profound thoughts about what religion gives its adherents in this life, in addition to its promises about the next.

Northern Ireland and Papua New Guinea might be the furthest places from each other in terms of geography and culture. But in Modern Gods, the two countries are linked by the Donnellys. Liz Donnelly, an anthropologist and former TV presenter, is given a new job presenting on a program for the BBC about the world’s newest religion. After stopping in her hometown in Ulster, she heads off to the island of New Ulster in Papua New Guinea. The novel then splits its time between what Liz is learning about a conflict between a woman who is creating her own religion on the spot and the local Christian missionaries. Meanwhile, her sister, Allison, learns that her new husband Stephen was once an active member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters. (We also learn about Liz’s mother’s cancer and her brother’s affair, which I don’t think add all that much to the narrative.)

By the middle of the book, things start to become clear as Liz’s subject and Stephen start to talk about why they’ve done certain things. We learn that religion, in addition to providing emotional comfort and answers about where we came from and what will happen after we die, also has some tangible benefits in this life. Liz’s subject, Belef, has turned religion into a means of getting back at the Christian missionaries she thinks killed her daughter. Her son, however, has turned to Christianity because being the right-hand man for the missionaries has raised his status to the point where he gets to call the shots around the village instead of the men who would traditionally lead. It was fascinating to see religious people from Northern Ireland and Papua New Guinea reflect on their beliefs in parallel.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the end of the book where it became clear that religion is a road to power for some people. On the other, it takes Laird a long time to get there—so long I wasn’t sure what Modern Gods was trying to say. Thinking back, I’m not sure if more editing would’ve helped this book reach its target more quickly because I can see why we needed so much of, for example, Stephen’s story to understand how religion gave Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants an almighty okay for their fighting. That said, I still feel that the first half of Modern Gods is front loaded with too much family drama that does nothing for the overall purpose of the narrative.

I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration. It will be released 27 June 2017.

The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage captures the same feeling of ponderous mindfulness of L’Étranger by Albert CamusThe main character, Dinesh, has been living every day as though it’s his last. Given that his country has been gripped by a deadly civil war, this is not a radical position. The Story of a Brief Marriage unfolds over a scant two day period in which Dinesh might have the opportunity to look ahead to a future without war, if he and his new wife can survive the present.

Dinesh has, after months of constant moving, fetched up in a refugee camp where he works as a sort of orderly in a makeshift hospital. He hides in the nearby jungle most of the time because the camp is frequently shelled and cadres of the “movement” are always looking for healthy men to press into service. Dinesh has gotten used to thinking that he could die at any time and the chapters are full of long, detailed descriptions of Dinesh taking in everything about his bodily functions and actions. Early in The Story of a Brief Marriage, for example, we are treated to pages of Dinesh making what he thinks might be his last bowel movement. Everything is significant to him because it might be the very last time and he wants to remember what it felt like.

Dinesh is one of the few young, relatively healthy men left in the refugee camp, which makes him one of the few options for a old man looking for a husband for his daughter. The man worries that, without him, Ganga will have no one to protect her. So he talks Dinesh into marrying her, arguing that the movement might be less likely to take a married man and bribing him with the deed to his house and land. Dinesh takes the offer, but mostly to learn what it would be like to be married, to have companionship after so long alone.

Once married, Dinesh reflects (at length) about trust and touch and what the future might be like for he and Ganga. Ganga is understandably wary of Dinesh and I appreciated her prickly practicality, especially after Dinesh’s fleshy meditations. Dinesh is so zen-like most of the time that I admit to skimming paragraphs of his ponderings. Because of the title of this short novel, however, I knew their relationship wouldn’t last. I was braced for whatever it was that would end it.

I thought a lot of L’Étranger as I read The Story of a Brief Marriage because they are both existentialist. L’Étranger is a philosophical, slightly artificial examination of existence by a bored, disaffected pied-noirThe Story of a Brief Marriage is much more realistic in that Dinesh constantly faces his own mortality. Both novels have a slow pace, full of reflection and wondering about the meaning of every detail and action. The pace forced me to slow down as well, to consider the outsized significance of the little details of living in an active war zone.

The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish

The Weight of Ink

The truism that history repeats itself is even more true in fiction. Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink demonstrates this with three people in three different centuries who face the same choices between love, life, and duty. In the 1650s, Ester Velasquez struggles to find a way to read and write things that are forbidden to her as a Jewish woman. In the 2000s, Aaron Levy wrestles with his academic obligations and his love for a mysterious women who just headed out to a kibbutz. In the 1950s, Helen Watt falls in love with a Holocaust survivor who offers her a seemingly impossible choice. Over and over, the characters ask themselves whether or not they can make the hard choices that might lead to happiness.

in 2001, Helen Watt is called in to evaluate a cache of documents and books written in Portuguese, Hebrew, and Latin. The items belonged to a seventeenth century rabbi who made his home in Richmond, England; he was one of the first rabbis to move back to England when Oliver Cromwell lifted the ban on Jews living in the country. She leaps on the find, hoping to make one last major discovery before Parkinson’s puts a period on her academic career. Aaron Levy is her appointed assistant, which she resents until they learn to work together. As they read and translate, the third character—Ester Velasquez—begins to emerge.

Ester is an impossibility. She is desperate to learn more about philosophy and theology (really anything she can get her hands on), but her religion and community believe that the only proper role for women is wife and mother. She only manages to scribe for the aforementioned rabbi because he is blind and because he taught her when she was a child. Still, Ester wants more. She wants to write to another one of the rabbi’s students: Benedictus de Spinoza. (Spinoza, according to the Jews of the time, was an outcast for his radical ideas about god.) Even with the gentiles, Ester isn’t taken seriously because of her gender.

For all three characters, choice after choice comes up that forces them to examine their goals and who they are. For Ester, the choices revolve around her religion and gender. How far is she willing to go in her quest for learning? Can she survive being an exile like Spinoza? For Helen, the choice in the 1950s was if she could accept a man who bore the weight of history and duty. Would she be willing to share the man she loved with his country? In the 2000s, the question is whether or not she will buck the rules of academic in her race to learn more about Ester before she’s found out. And, for Aaron, the choice is much like one Ester faces later in the book. Will Aaron give up his current situation to follow the possibility of love? There are many further complications for each of the trio but, essentially, their choice is between what they know and an unknown future.

As a bonus for me, The Weight of Ink is also full of Jewish and philosophical history that I devoured. I didn’t find the ins and outs of seventeenth century Jewish life and philosophy heavy going, but I suspect that it’s because I’m a librarian and an academic. Most of this book takes place in libraries. For me, reading about translation and research are not at all boring. For readers who are interested in Jewish characters, history, and philosophy or who just like reading about research, this book will be amazing. It’s clear to me that Kadish did a lot of research to bring Ester’s world to life and I think she’s very good at introducing detail without overloading the book or sounding pedantic.

Unlike most books that move back and forth through time, I was equally interested in all three characters in their different centuries. Each time the perspective changed, I would immediately engage with the new chapter. The parallels between the characters and the choices they face link them all and their personalities put a fresh spin on these decisions. Choosing the possibility of love and happiness over staying put might seem like an easy choice, but each of the characters’ journeys show just how hard it is to make the leap. I was on tenterhooks until the end of the book and their decisions were revealed.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 6 June 2017.

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, by Alina Bronsky

The Hottest Dishes of the Tarter Cuisine

All of us have mother issues, to some extent, but I doubt that anyone’s mother is as awful as Rosalinda Achmetowna. Of course, Rosa could not imagine that anyone would think she’s a bad mother and grandmother. In Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (translated by Tim Mohr), Rosa is very careful to explain that everything she does is for her daughter and granddaughter’s own good. If it weren’t for the fact that Rosa is hilariously oblivious to everyone around her, this book might be too much to bear. Even with the humor, Rosa is clearly a candidate for worst mother ever.

When we first meet Rosa, she’s trying to arrange an abortion for her daughter, Sulfia. Sulfia only goes along with it because no one says no to Rosa. Sulfia has been browbeaten so much over the years that she’s adopted a strategy of passivity when it comes to her mother—which, unfortunately for her, makes Rosa doubt her intelligence. When Aminat is born, it comes as a surprise to everyone. Rosa sees her granddaughter as a chance to raise a perfect child, since she failed (through no fault of her own, she would tell us) with Sulfia. Thus begins the great battle for Aminat’s soul between mother and grandmother.

For most of the book, Rosa is firmly convinced that she is right and everyone else is wrong. They could be better if they only tried harder and just obeyed her commands. She is not above pulling Aminat’s hair or threatening to take away her kitten if the little girl doesn’t “behave.” Rosa is also a master of emotional blackmail. Perhaps she’s just a product of late Soviet life. She grew up in an orphanage and learned how to hustle, Soviet style. But the techniques she uses to manipulate officials are probably the worst techniques for parenting.

It isn’t until much later, when Rosa and Aminat move to Germany (the result of an appalling trade Rosa makes) that the façade starts to crack. Aminat begins to seriously rebel and Rosa can’t get a legitimate job in a country where blackmail and bribery are not a matter of course. (She is shocked when an instructor only charges her for the cost of the driving test.)

In the end, we’re left to judge Rosa for her deeds. Does it matter that she really might have meant well when she did so much damage? How much can we trust what Rosa tells us? It’s hard to take her seriously when her manipulation of her daughter and granddaughter also benefits Rosa’s situation. The fact that I’m still asking these questions is a testament to how well Bronsky uses her unreliable narrator. It’s possible to see though Rosa’s lies, to some extent. But the fact that the entire story is presented from her point of view keeps things just opaque enough that Rosa remains a complex character enough to avoid stereotypes.

The Great Passage, by Shion Miura

The Great Passage

Samuel Johnson defined lexicographer as “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words” (Dictionary of the English Language). Shion Miura’s The Great Passage (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter) is full of such harmless drudges. This short novel rotates among a cast of characters united in creating a great Japanese dictionary and their fondness for the oddball editor.

When the novel begins, The Great Passage (the name chosen for the dictionary) is just a glimmer in the eyes of its creators. Araki is about to retire from Gembu Books, but he finds the perfect replacement in Majime. Majime has the same obsession with words and teasing out all of their meanings. Unless you’re a word nerd, too, spending time with them can be a little aggravating because Majime, Araki, and the other lexicographers can’t let questions go until they’ve got all the answers. Other characters (who take turns being the focus of different chapters) who aren’t harmless drudges are bewildered by them.

The dictionary takes years to put together because, aside from the amount of work it takes to select words, research and define them, and proofread everything, the publisher keeps side-tracking them to work on other projects. The dictionary department has a reputation for being a money pit and, for most of the book, Majime et al. fret that Gembu will pull the plug on the project. In the end, it takes more than ten years to finish the dictionary.

Being a word nerd myself, I enjoyed Majime, Araki, and the other’s conversations about word origins and meanings. Other readers might not be so enamored of all the etymology. Majime is a sweet character to follow because of his oddness and the fact that he succeeds in spite of himself sometimes. This book was the perfect literary lightness I needed after the atomic weight of Radium Girls.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 1 June 2017.