White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages

Viking, 2008     ISBN: 0670062359

whitesands“The Green Glass Sea,” about the Manhattan Project, which Suze Gordan’s parents, and Dewey Kerrigan’s father was involved in, is now continued in this new volume by Klages. The war is over, the US is bomb-happy and has imported a bunch of former Nazi’s to work on their rocket program. Suze’s father believes both in the political value, and the scientific value of proceeding with the rocket program, while her mother, having seen the results of the bomb she helped to create, has gone over to the other side, protesting for an end to the program, and for world unity.

Dewey, whose father died in the last book, is living with the Gordan’s, and Suze alternately enjoys her company and is jealous of the relationship that Dewey has with her mother since both are interested in science. With the conflict between her parents growing ever more fierce, Suze feels very much alone. Meanwhile, Dewey lives in uncertainty: the Gordan’s can’t adopt her, because she has a mother somewhere who abandoned her as an infant. Dewey and Suze each make a new friend which relieves some of the stress between them, but the future for all of them as a family is unclear.

Historically accurate and interesting, Klages brings the post-war/early cold-war era to life in every detail, small and large, from “atomic” cleaning products to spinthariscopes (look it up), to rocket testing debris, all of it is there.

The interpersonal relationships are all well drawn. The issues between the Gordan parents as scientists on either side of what will become a fierce issue in the future also anticipate many of the issues that feminists will bring to the fore in the coming years, in particular, about the role and importance of a woman pursuing her own career. Suze and Dewey’s struggles, jealousies, and desires for security both in their personal lives, and in a world that they understand is much more frightening than most of their peers do are very realistic.

Klages wraps up a number of plot lines, but leaves others unresolved, making the reader eager for another book.

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