Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan, 2017
Egan is a much awarded novelist (Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Prize, and National Book Award finalist) who has become a fixture on the best seller list. This is the first of her books that I have read, and I’m a believer. She does a wonderful job of character development. Ed Kerrigan, his daughter Anna, Dexter Styles are all fully developed and have stayed with me for days after the end of the book, and her minor characters including the Navy divers, Kerrigan’s shipmates on the torpedoed ship, Styles’ father-in-law and the two gangster leaders are vivid and believable. The story about two families in the New York City underworld and their struggles during WWII is fast moving and fascinating, alternately touching and brutal. Egan’s symbolism includes darkness as a stand-in for our inability to really know other people (the darkness at the bottom on NY harbor as Anna dives, the fog rolling in on the final pages), the knots which Anna and her father are challenged to untie at different points in the story, the false identities that almost every character uses during some phase of the novel. This is a powerful and affecting book and a worthwhile read.