By Virginia Egan
This novel begins in the depression era and carries on through the impact of war on women whilst men are away, class struggle, crime, loss, tragedy and the relationship between fathers and daughters. We meet Anna Kerrigan at age 12 when she and her father leave their apartment in Brooklyn for an opulent Manhattan Beach home of a nightclub owner with ties to the mob so that her father can better his station in life. Even at this tender age, Anna senses that the relationship her father has with this man has everything to do with the success of his career. The story has many themes, but what I liked best was its treatment of work. Anna’s father begins as a foot soldier for a crooked union, moves on to become a mob foot soldier and then to the merchant marines—essentially a sea soldier for the war effort. Anna’s mother quits her successful career in entertainment to raise children; Anna’s aunt struggles throughout the entire novel making ends meet as a dancer; and Anna herself works in a nearly all female workforce in the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard. The celebration and joy of work is observed through its symptoms of inequality, abuse and misery when there is a lack thereof.