People who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper's parents, her sister, and—when she needed summer jobs—herself.
A smart, self-aware memoir of life in a Cold War outpost ... Piper’s account moves among the personal and the universal, with fine small coming-of-age moments. The narrative threatens to unravel a little when, following her father’s death, Piper acts on clues he left behind to follow his footsteps in other arenas of the Cold War, but she pulls everything into an effective—and affecting—whole ... skilled storytelling.
[A Girl's Guide to Missiles] has a brilliantly overdetermined setup, one that yields both black comedy and sickening lurches of insight ... While still a child, Piper naturally isn’t equipped to question the broader context she’s living in, although there is the occasional kids-say-the-darndest-things moment ... This subject matter is a gift, a giant joke on the geopolitical import one’s home life can be felt to have, though perhaps it’s inevitable that not all of Piper’s personal anecdotes can quite bear the weight this places on them.
...[a] funny, sometimes rueful, occasionally bitter account of growing up in the rockets' red glare ... What happened to the generation that came of age between Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan? At times Piper herself doesn't seem quite sure ... Suddenly she is part of the whole sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll scene. Once a good Baptist, she seems as surprised at that moment as her parents might have been ... So is the reader, which is the major flaw in a memoir that is otherwise revelatory.