Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum
Author: Rachel Barenbaum
Published: April 5, 2022
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Three generations of women work together and travel through time to prevent the Chernobyl disaster and right the wrongs of their past.
Three brilliant women.
Two life-changing mistakes.
One chance to reset the future.
In 1986, renowned nuclear scientist, Anna Berkova, is sleeping in her bed in the Soviet Union when Chernobyl’s reactor melts down. It’s the exact moment she tears through time—and it’s an accident. When she opens her eyes, she’s landed in 1992 only to discover Molly, her estranged daughter, shot in the chest. Molly, with her dying breath, begs Anna to go back in time and stop the disaster, to save Molly’s daughter Raisa, and put their family’s future on a better path.
In ‘60s Philadelphia, Molly is coming of age as an adopted refusenik. Her family is full of secrets and a past they won’t share. She finds solace in comic books, drawing her own series, Atomic Anna, and she’s determined to make it as an artist. When she meets the volatile, charismatic Viktor, their romance sets her life on a very different course.
In the ‘80s, Raisa, is a lonely teen and math prodigy, until a quiet, handsome boy moves in across the street and an odd old woman shows up claiming to be her biological grandmother. As Raisa finds new issues of Atomic Anna in unexpected places, she notices each comic challenges her to solve equations leading to one impossible conclusion: time travel. And she finally understands what she has to do.
As these remarkable women work together to prevent the greatest nuclear disaster of the 20th century, they grapple with the power their discoveries hold. Just because you can change the past, does it mean you should?
This book gave me anxiety! I’m a historian and a traditional one at that! And when someone, anyone starts messing with time, I get all clenchy inside! And in this book, everyone treats time with no respect!! Just going back in time, willy-nilly, not caring about the effects! Sooner, later, trying fix stuff from the last trip … it was just exhausting. The story itself was ok, and the characters were likable. The people that I felt were so underappreciated were Yulia and Lazar. They adopted their friend’s child without complaint and she turned into a brat! Molly and Anna kinda ruined the book for me. They’re the type of women who do what they want without a single thought about how their actions affect anyone else. I greatly dislike people like that. And the lesson, I just didn’t get it. The resolution was murky and unsatisfying. I’m glad I read this book … but I doubt I’ll ever read it again.