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A grimly fascinating tale set in New York City in summer 1975, when the daughter of a nuclear physicist faces—with the help of her four therapists—the psychological damage caused by her father’s early death.

After seven years of traveling the globe with little money and no intentions, 30-year-old Marea Hoffman returns to America to answer one nagging question: Was her father’s death by car accident when she was just 12 a suicide over his despair at working on the hydrogen bomb? Marea is rootless, possessing only what’s in her knapsack; she takes a “white room” in a transient hotel, gets a night job at Dawn’s Early Rising baking bread with a hippie gay baker, and spends her days riding the subway and paying visits to the four therapists she tries to please by presenting four distinct parts of herself. Marea (named for the seas on the dark side of the moon) has had nightmares about her father’s work since she was a child growing up with her parents in Princeton, where fellow scientist Albert Einstein used to come over for Sunday dinner. Marea’s father Jonas, an Austrian Jew who barely escaped the death camps, found his scientific work a way both to foil evil and help his adopted country. Yet his wife, Virginia, a Quaker, and Einstein, being pacifists, try vehemently to change his mind—with the result that Jonas is exiled from everyone’s good graces before his tragic early death in 1957. Former TV producer and second-novelist Wenner (Setting Fires, 2000) manages in a short space to create memorable characters in the four therapists (old world Dr. Angela Iris, uptight psychoanalyst Colin Ross, sexy Jungian Eric Silas, and politically defensive lesbian Nina Wolf) and in Marea’s sadly diminished mother, not to mention in Einstein himself, whom Marea called Grandpa and used to dance with around the living room to oompah music.

The fallout of America’s atomic nightmare in a touching, humanistic story.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7432-5164-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2003


FictionFAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY by Mike Meginnis
by Mike Meginnis