Simplistic and memoir-like historical about two girls coming of age as their scientist father works to help make WWII come out all right.
Childhood here means you ask lots of awkward rhetorical questions in interior monologue and learn about the adult world through the clunky devices of coincidence and eavesdropping. The Lindsten family moves to Washington, DC, shortly after Pearl Harbor so that protagonist Joey’s father can work with Robert Oppenheimer on the bomb. But does Poppy really need to stay out until midnight every night to beat a Hitler who might actually win this thing? The girls simply can’t understand the war except in terms of the mean rats in the house and the forced move from Cambridge. And what’s with Poppy? Is the only nice thing he can say to Mum that he likes her stew? Still, things look better when Oppenheimer contacts Joey’s father himself—Oppie calls Poppy (really)—and Joey has time to memorize bits of speeches of Roosevelt and Churchill and to worry about getting a bra from the five-and-ten. Details are largely recognizable: there are Spam dinners and Lucky Strikes ads, while everyone wants to know what Mrs. Roosevelt is into now. Oppie calls Poppy for an emergency meeting at the British embassy, but it doesn’t ruin the Lindsten family Christmas or divert Mum’s growing suspicions about Poppy. The years fly by: Poppy takes a job somewhere secret (read: Los Alamos), but the story’s main concern is whether Joey will win the Four Freedoms Essay Contest. And the questions Joey continually asks herself are the ones that pester us: “What did it mean that Mum seemed happier with Poppy gone and that they were having a good Christmas without him?”
Nostalgia and cultural narcissism with a mostly painted-by-numbers feel.