Shields has created a dawn-of-the-nuclear-age Cassandra in this galvanizing variation on the ancient Greek tale of a seer doomed always to be right, yet never to be believed. Shields summons the spirit of the besieged land in a heron, coyote, and rattlesnake who reveal, in surreal and terrifying visions, the horrors of the radiation contaminating the region and the hell to come in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mildred proves to be a woman of unnerving strength as she also contends with Hanford’s brutal racism, as witness, and endures sexual violence. Shields verges on overkill but offers satirically comedic scenes and satisfyingly venomous takedowns of the patriarchy, welcome flashes of light in this otherwise harrowing dive into the darkest depths of hubris and apocalyptic destruction. A uniquely audacious approach to the nuclear nightmare.
Shields’ often lyrical account of Mildred’s travails provides not only a well-researched sense of place and time, but also a peek at the gung-ho attitudes which made the Manhattan project possible ... Rooted in the geography and culture of the communities Hanford displaced, Shields’ reworking of the classic myth—about a young woman whose warnings about a future she alone can see are ignored—is filled with grotesque and violent images and episodes of keening sorrow ... Shields delivers what her heroine cannot: a warning, impossible to ignore, about the costs of blind adherence to ideology.
Alluring, phantasmagoric ... Shields incorporates a strong feminist undercurrent, and the constant objectification of and casual workplace violence against the women of Hanford often makes for uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately, narrative suspense will be lessened for readers with basic knowledge of WWII history or the Cassandra myth. There is little redemption in Mildred’s story, a conclusion foreshadowed from the start. With a plucky, charismatic narrator and vivid scenes incorporating the history of a real WWII facility, Shield’s novel digs into the destructive arrogance of war.