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Library Journal Review
An 11-year-old's daring 1934 dip at Brooklyn's Manhattan Beach introduces the tautly twisted threads of Egan's first novel since 2011's Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad. This tripart historical hybrid-part family saga, part noirish mystery, part testimony to women's war-fueled empowerment-features Heather Lind as adventurous tween Anna Kerrigan; -Norbert Leo Butz as Anna's father, Eddie; and Vincent Piazza as Eddie's boss Dexter Styles. Lind seamlessly matures into bold, independent Anna who becomes the Brooklyn Navy Yard's first female scuba diver. Butz voices Eddie, initially a yes-man to Styles, who disappears from his family but not from the narrative; Butz exhibits the greatest range, showcasing his facility with accents to create additional global characters. Piazza, too, convincingly embodies a roster of lesser characters in addition to Styles, who is both socialite and gangster. Aural direction takes a less-than-effective turn when dialog between major characters is obviously spliced together-for example, in an especially intimate scene, Anna and Dexter sound more like they're conversing from separate tunnels than in the same space. VERDICT Despite occasional production glitches, the separate strengths of the narrating trio make this Beach a worthwhile destination. ["This large, ambitious novel shows Egan at the top of her game": LJ 9/1/17 starred review of the Scribner hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Lind has a lovely, low, breathy voice and the ability to foster the tension, fear, and fearlessness that fill Egan's finely wrought historical novel. The story is set in the Brooklyn Naval Yard during WWII, where women engage in the urgent work of war while the men are abroad. Actor Lind is captivating from the start as Anna Kerrigan, who, as a brash 11-year old, goes with her father and his boss, Dexter Styles, to Manhattan Beach, where she removes her shoes to feel the icy water on her feet. Anna grows up to fight her way into the very male world of underwater divers, scouring the sea bottom for lost objects, repairing damaged warships, and searching for the remains of her father, who disappeared when she was young and who she comes to suspect is dead. Like Anna, each character has an intimate and complex relation to the sea that can engender birth, healing, and bliss, as well as dread, destruction, and death. Butz handles his narrative sections nicely, creating an especially convincing characterization of Styles, and Piazza imbues a beautiful and terrifying wartime sea scene with all the drama it deserves. The stellar performances of three voice actors make this the type of audiobook that will convert people to the format. A Scribner hardcover. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* The sea, in all its gleaming, brooding, swaying magnificence and mystery, calls to the striving characters in Egan's first historical novel and exerts an equally magnetic pull on readers. In Depression-era New York City, Eddie Kerrigan, a self-possessed, exceptionally observant man, takes his smart, circumspect 11-year-old daughter, Anna, along on his rounds as a bagman for an Irish gangster. One cold day they drive out to Manhattan Beach to meet with Dexter Styles, a dashing and ruthless nightclub impresario who is impressed with Anna's urge to walk barefoot in the frigid sand and sea. Well, what's it feel like? he asks. It only hurts at first, she says. After a while you can't feel anything. Her father is not pleased, but Dexter grins and says, Words to live by. And with that, Egan, a deft and deep-reaching storyteller, establishes the secret triangle upon which this mesmerizing novel of suspense, daring, and determination is so adroitly built. Anna is devoted to her severely disabled sister, Lydia, as is her beautiful mother, a Minnesota farm girl who made her way to New York and the Ziegfeld Follies. Eddie can barely look at his twisted, immobile youngest but commits himself to making enough money to provide the care she needs, hence his dangerous association with Styles, who walks a thin line between legitimate prestige and violent criminality via his ties to the Syndicate. Eddie's gamble backfires, and he disappears. After a year of college, Anna joins the war effort, securing a job at the Brooklyn Naval Yard inspecting parts for battleships. She has an epiphany while watching a man don a massive diving suit: she is destined to be a diver. Her wildly unconventional conviction carries her over every obstacle entrenched misogyny places in her way. Egan revels in Anna's moxie, training, underwater ship-repairing missions, and growing expertise, describing every object, action, and conversation with exhilarating specificity. She knows precisely how those 200-pound diving suits worked, how they felt from the inside, how divers were attached to their tenders above, how they were buffeted by the currents as they worked. She animates the Naval Yard, the waves of ambition, rivalry, gossip, and camaraderie among diverse men and women who never would have known each other if war hadn't tossed them together. Egan was able to write so vividly and fluidly about this seminal time and place because she has been researching the Naval Yard and its divers since 2004, six years before A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) appeared. In that innovative and episodic novel, which garnered the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Booklist's Top of the List, Egan considered the seismic impact of digital technology, as she did in The Keep (2006), in which gothic meets high-tech. Here, in this more traditionally told tale, she looks back to the coalescence of an earlier technological revolution as the world went to war, American industrialization was weaponized, men were sent to the front, and women filled new jobs.Like Dennis Lehane, Egan has combined insightful historical fiction with emotionally rich crime fiction to create a riveting and provocative investigation into the human condition. For all her keen attunement to social metamorphosis, what is most engrossing is Egan's charting of the psychological eddies and storms that shape her irresistibly stubborn, risk-seeking characters. Eddie's tough boyhood left him preferring danger over sorrow any day of the week. Anna does what she believes she must, no matter the consequences. How sharply Egan delineates the byzantine calculus inherent in underworld alliances; how powerfully she evokes the glory and perils of nature and the utter nihilism of erotic desire. There's more. Egan also follows the fate of the archetypcally motley crew of a merchant-marine ship in U-boat-infested waters, mustering the piercing detail and wrenching drama found in Melville and Conrad. Ultimately, Egan's propulsive, surprising, ravishing, and revelatory saga, a covertly profound page-turner that will transport and transform every reader, casts us all as divers in the deep, searching for answers, hope, and ascension.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
After stretching the boundaries of fiction in myriad ways (including a short story written in Tweets), Pulitzer Prize winner Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2010, etc.) does perhaps the only thing left that could surprise: she writes a thoroughly traditional novel.It shouldn't really be surprising, since even Egan's most experimental work has been rich in characters and firmly grounded in sharp observation of the society around them. Here, she brings those qualities to a portrait of New York City during the Depression and World War II. We meet 12-year-old Anna Kerrigan accompanying her adored father, Eddie, to the Manhattan Beach home of suave mobster Dexter Styles. Just scraping by "in the dregs of 1934," Eddie is lobbying Styles for a job; he's sick of acting as bagman for a crooked union official, and he badly needs money to buy a wheelchair for his severely disabled younger daughter, Lydia. Having rapidly set up these situations fraught with conflict, Egan flashes forward several years: Anna is 19 and working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, the sole support of Lydia and their mother since Eddie disappeared five years earlier. Adult Anna is feisty enough to elbow her way into a job as the yard's first female diver and reckless enough, after she runs into him at one of his nightclubs, to fall into a one-night stand with Dexter, who initially doesn't realize whose daughter she is. Disastrous consequences ensue for them both but only after Egan has expertly intertwined three narratives to show us what happened to Eddie while drawing us into Anna's and Dexter's complicated longings and aspirations. The Atlantic and Indian oceans play significant roles in a novel saturated by the sense of water as a vehicle of destiny and a symbol of continuity (epigraph by Melville, naturally). A fatal outcome for one appealing protagonist is balanced by Shakespearean reconciliation and renewal for others in a tender, haunting conclusion. Realistically detailed, poetically charged, and utterly satisfying: apparently there's nothing Egan can't do. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.