The Woman with Two Shadows

Written by Sarah James
Review by Susan McDuffie

1945: Lillian Kaufman, a talented and ambitious physics student, learns her identical twin sister, Eleanor, has disappeared in Tennessee. Eleanor had taken the position at a secret U.S. Army engineering site, rather than a coveted gig in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, in an attempt to repair her relationship with her fiancé Max Medelson—a relationship Lillian had helped to fracture. Lillian assumes Eleanor’s identity and job at the mysterious Clinton Engineering Works to try and discover what happened to her twin. Max eventually assists Lillian, but they soon learn other people also have disappeared from the job site. Lillian later enlists the help of the brilliant wunderkind physicist Andrew Ennis as she attempts to learn what happened to her sister. Their search reveals secrets—both personal and military of all players in the game.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, a glimpse into the clandestine world of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Manhattan Project. The heroine, Lillian, fascinates. Deeply flawed, she rings very true to life. A talented woman, Lillian is driven by her love of science. Her own stated desire to protect her glamorous and outgoing sister may blind Lillian to some of her other, deeper motives, but this self-deception makes her a wonderfully interesting heroine. The contrasting characters of Lillian and Eleanor drive the plot. Lillian’s attempt to assume her sister’s identity, and the conflicts that arise from this, make The Woman with Two Shadows the best WWII novel I have read in quite a long while. It proves an exceptionally refreshing read in a saturated market. I unreservedly recommend this book to all readers who enjoy complex and realistic characterization, as well as to the many lovers of WWII fiction.