As its title suggests, this novel about adjusting to life in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 1945 is as much an exploration of its setting as a story about 13-year-old Mattie McDowell and her family--who have moved from a Kentucky mining community to take part in the secret work that resulted in the first atomic bomb. Green captures the setting very well--the mysterious, flimsily built town and its rural surroundings; the not-too-onerous wartime shortages; the nightmare-inducing fears provoked by newsreels at the movies; the rigid division between men's work and women's. The simple plot serves as a foil for its background: cousin Virgil, 12, whose father is a ne'er-do-well and whose mother has left him with her parents, comes to live instead with the McDowells; though Virgil's sense of humor is charming, Mattie resents him--boys and men always seem to come first in her world. But after his mother dies and his father has reclaimed him only to exploit him as a laborer, Mattie realizes that her parents value her regardless of her sex and that she is genuinely fond of Virgil; she is even the first to suggest that he become a permanent family member. The details aren't perfect here--don't try stacking a load of hay as Mattie was instructed--but they add up to an authentic portrait of an interesting time.