The Green Glass Sea

Written by Ellen Klages
Review by Susan Higginbotham

In 1943, Dewey Kerrigan, nearly eleven, finds herself on a train headed toward New Mexico to join her father, a mathematician who has been working on what Dewey can describe only as “secret stuff.” Dewey is bound for a place called “the Hill” – Los Alamos – that is populated by scientists and mathematicians and their families, all working on a mysterious project known only as the gadget, one that everyone hopes will end the war.

The Green Glass Sea – the reason for the title becomes clear only in the last chapter – has many strands running through it. In part, it’s about the budding friendship between two outsiders: Dewey, who reads The Boy Mechanic and who is building her own radio, and her belligerent, artistic classmate, Suze Gordon. In part, it’s a tale of how Dewey copes with loss. In part, it’s a celebration of intelligence and nonconformity. In part, it’s a story of the World War II home front (the scene where Dewey hears of the death of FDR is particularly moving). And in part, it’s a story of how the adults of Los Alamos put in long hours and make sacrifices to create their gadget – with a success that exhilarates some and terrifies others.

Crisply and compassionately written, with period details (like Mrs. Gordon’s chain-smoking) that light up the story without overwhelming it, this is an excellent novel that adults might want to borrow from their children. I’m looking forward to the sequel.