Manhattan Beach: A Novel

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Oct 3, 2017 - Fiction - 448 pages
43 Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NEW YORK’S “ONE BOOK, ONE NEW YORK” PICK

Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author.

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Esquire, Vogue, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA TODAY, Time • A New York Times Notable Book

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.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
8
4 stars
26
3 stars
4
2 stars
4
1 star
1

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - clue - www.librarything.com

Manhattan Beach takes place in Brooklyn a few years before and during WWII. The action swirls around Eddie Kerrigan, a minor member of a crime syndicate, his daughter Anna who on shear gumption ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - techeditor - www.librarything.com

I am tempted to give MANHATTAN BEACH five stars. It deserves five stars for its historical accuracy and writing style. But only it’s second half is both plot- and character-driven. The first half of ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
14
Section 3
23
Section 4
35
Section 5
47
Section 6
65
Section 7
75
Section 8
94
Section 18
247
Section 19
264
Section 20
277
Section 21
289
Section 22
301
Section 23
309
Section 24
322
Section 25
345

Section 9
105
Section 10
123
Section 11
140
Section 12
150
Section 13
169
Section 14
187
Section 15
204
Section 16
221
Section 17
235
Section 26
362
Section 27
375
Section 28
388
Section 29
403
Section 30
418
Section 31
427
Section 32
435
Section 33
439
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2017)

PART TWO

Shadow World

CHAPTER FIVE

It all started with seeing the girl. Anna had gone outside to buy lunch over the disapproval of her supervisor, Mr. Voss, who liked them to bring their lunches from home and eat them on the same tall stools where they sat measuring all day. Anna sensed anxiety in his wish to keep them in sight, as if girls at large in the Naval Yard might scatter like chickens. True, their shop was pleasant to eat in, clean and brightly lit by a bank of second-story windows. It had conditioned air, a humming chill that had filled every corner during the hot September days when Anna first came to work there. Now she would have liked to open a window and let in the fresh October air, but the windows were permanently shut, sealing out dust and grime that might affect the measurements she and the other girls took--or was it that the tiny parts they were measuring needed to be pristine in order to function? No one knew, and Mr. Voss was not a man who welcomed questions. Early on, Anna had asked of the unrecognizable parts in her tray, "What are we measuring, exactly, and which ship are they for?"

Mr. Voss''s pale eyebrows rose. "That information isn''t necessary to do your job, Miss Kerrigan."

"It would help me to do it better."

"I''m afraid I don''t follow."

"I would know what I was doing."

The marrieds hid their smiles. Anna had been cast--or cast herself--in the role of unruly kid sister, and was enjoying it immensely. She found herself looking for little ways to challenge Mr. Voss without risking outright insubordination.

"You are measuring and inspecting parts to ensure that they are uniform," he said patiently, as if to a halfwit. "And you are setting aside any that are not."

Soon it came to be known that the parts they were inspecting were for the battleship Missouri, whose keel had been laid almost a year before Pearl Harbor in Dry Dock 4. Later, the Missouri''s hull had been floated across Wallabout Bay to the building ways: vast iron enclosures whose zigzagging catwalks evoked the Coney Island Cyclone. Knowing that the parts she was inspecting would be adjoined to the most modern battleship ever built had indeed brought some additional zest to the work for Anna. But not enough.

When the lunch whistle blew at eleven-thirty, she was itching to get outside. In order to justify leaving the building, she didn''t bring a lunch--a ploy she knew did not fool Mr. Voss. But he couldn''t very well deny a girl food, so he watched grimly as she made for the door while the marrieds unwrapped sandwiches from waxed paper and talked about husbands in boot camp or overseas; who''d had a letter; clues or hunches or dreams as to where their beloveds might be; how desperately frightened they were. More than one girl had wept, describing her terror that a husband or fiancÚ would not return. Anna couldn''t listen. The talk stirred in her an uncomfortable anger at these girls, who seemed so weak. Thankfully, Mr. Voss had put an end to that topic during working hours, prompting an unlikely trill of gratitude in Anna. Now they sang songs from their colleges while they worked: Hunter, St. Joseph''s, Brooklyn College, whose song Anna finally learned--not having bothered to in the year she was a student there.

She synchronized her wristwatch with the large wall clock they all answered to, and stepped outdoors. After the sealed hush of her shop, the roar of Yard noise always shocked her: crane and truck and train engines; the caterwaul of steel being cut and chipped in the nearby structural shop; men hollering to be heard. The stench of coal and oil mingled with gusts of chocolate from the factory on Flushing Avenue. It wasn''t making chocolate anymore, but something for soldiers to eat when they might otherwise starve. This chocolate cousin was supposed to taste like a boiled potato, Anna had heard, so that soldiers wouldn''t be tempted to snack on it ahead of time. But the smell was still delicious.

As she hurried alongside Building 4, the structural shop, with its thousand dingy windows, she saw a girl climbing onto a bicycle. Anna didn''t register at first that it was a girl; she wore the same plain blue work clothes they all did. But something in her bearing, the flair with which she mounted, caught Anna''s eye, and she watched the girl glide away with a shiver of envy.

At a canteen near the piers, she bought her forty-cent boxed meal--today it was chicken, mashed potatoes, canned peas, and applesauce--and made her way toward Piers C and D, both close enough to her shop that she could eat (often while standing, even walking) and be back on her stool by twelve-fifteen. A ship had berthed at Pier C since the previous day, its sudden towering apparition almost otherworldly. With each step Anna took toward the ship, its height seemed to rise, until she had to tip her head fully back to follow the curved prow all the way up to the distant deck. It was thronged with sailors, identical-looking in their toylike uniforms and caps, all leaning over the rail to gawk at something below. In that same moment, a chorus of catcalls reached her. She went still, clutching her boxed lunch--then saw with relief that the object of their ardor was not her but the girl on the bicycle, who was riding back alongside the ship from the foot of the pier, a tousle of peroxide curls pried from her scarf by the wind. Anna watched her approach, trying to discern whether the girl was enjoying this attention or not. Before she could make up her mind, the bicycle hit a patch of gravel and skidded on its side, dumping its rider onto the brick-paved pier, to the jeering hilarity of the sailors. Had the men been within reach of the girl, they doubtless would have elbowed each other aside to rush to her aid. But at such a height, with only each other to show off for, they settled for an orgy of heckling:

"Aw, poor baby lost her balance."

"Shame she''s not wearing a skirt."

"Say, you''re pretty even when you''re crying."

But the girl wasn''t crying. She stood up angrily, humiliated but defiant, and Anna decided then that she liked her. She''d thought fleetingly of running to help the girl, but was glad she''d resisted--two girls struggling with a bicycle would be funnier than just one. And this girl would not have wanted help. She straightened her shoulders and walked the bicycle slowly to the top of the pier, where Anna was, giving no sign that she heard anything. Anna saw how pretty she was, with dimpled cheeks and flickering blue eyes, those Jean Harlow curls. Familiar, too--perhaps because she looked the way Lydia might have looked had she not been the way she was. The world was full of strangers (Betty Grable among them) for whom Anna felt a sisterly affection for that reason. But as the girl stalked past, ignoring Anna, she recognized her as one of the girls whom reporters had chosen to follow in September, on the first day girls had started working at the Naval Yard. Anna had seen her picture in the Brooklyn Eagle.

When she was safely past the ship, the girl mounted her bicycle and rode away. Anna checked her wristwatch and discovered with horror that she was almost thirteen minutes late. She sprinted toward her building, aware of creating a mild spectacle by running. She flew past the inspectors on the first floor--all men, using ladders to measure bigger parts--and resumed her stool at 12:37, sweat coursing from her armpits along the inside of her jumpsuit. She fixed her eyes on the tray of small parts she was given each day to measure and tried to quell her panting. Rose, a married she was friendly with, gave her a warning look from the next table.

The micrometer was stupidly easy to use: clasp, screw, read. Anna had been delighted with this assignment at first; girls in trades like welding and riveting had needed six weeks of instruction, whereas inspecting required just a week of aptitude tests. She was among college girls, and Mr. Voss had used the word "elite" in his introductory remarks, which had pleased her. Above all, she was tired of working with her hands. But after two days of reading the micrometer and then stamping a paper that came with her tray to certify that the parts were uniform, Anna found that she loathed the job. It was monotonous yet required concentration; numbingly mundane yet critical enough that it took place in a "clean room." Squinting at the micrometer made her head pound. She had an urge sometimes to try and use just her fingers to gauge whether the parts were correctly sized. But she could only guess, then had to measure to find out if her guess was correct. And the all-knowing Mr. Voss had spotted her working with her eyes closed. "May I ask what you''re doing, Miss Kerrigan?" he''d remarked. When Anna told him (for the amusement of the marrieds), he''d said, "This is no time for whimsy. We''ve a war to fight."

Now, when the shift was done and they were back in street clothes, Mr. Voss asked Anna to step inside his office. No one had ever been called to his office; this was ominous.

"Shall I wait?" Rose asked as the other marrieds wished her luck and hurried away. But Anna demurred, knowing that Rose had a baby to get home to.

The snapper''s office was bare and provisional, like most of the Naval Yard. After standing briefly when she entered, Mr. Voss resumed his seat behind a metal desk. "You were twenty minutes late returning from lunch," he said. "Twenty-two, in fact."

Anna stood before him, her heart pumping directly into her face. Mr. Voss was an important man in the Yard; the commandant had telephoned him more than once. He could have her dismissed. This was a prospect she hadn''t fully consider

Bibliographic information