Wednesday, June 22, 2022

"The Physicists' Daughter"

Mary Anna Evans is an award-winning author, a writing professor, and she holds degrees in physics and engineering, a background that, as it turns out, is ideal for writing her new book, The Physicists’ Daughter. Set in WWII-era New Orleans, the book introduces Justine Byrne, whom Evans describes as “a little bit Rosie-the-Riveter and a little bit Bletchley Park codebreaker.” When Justine, the daughter of two physicists who taught her things girls weren’t expected to know in 1944, realizes that her boss isn’t telling her the truth about the work she does in her factory job, she draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country, and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home.

Evans applied the Page 69 Test to The Physicists' Daughter and reported the following:
I’m happy to report that the Page 69 Test, in this case, works beautifully. Page 69 of The Physicists’ Daughter is a turning point in the reader’s understanding of the protagonist, Justine Byrne.

In the early chapters of the book, which is set during World War II in 1944, Justine has shown herself to be an intelligent, resourceful, loving young woman. Raised by parents who were both physicists, she has an education in the sciences that is rare for a woman of her time. She supports herself with a Rosie-the-Riveter-style job in a factory, where she mends broken parts using the welding skills her father taught her.

And there are a lot of broken parts! There are so many that Justine suspects sabotage, but she doesn’t know who can be trusted with her fears.

As page 69 approaches, Justine arranges to see her godmother Gloria Mazur, also a physicist, hoping she can give her some guidance with this problem. The reader knows that Justine and Gloria were very close, but they haven’t seen each other since Justine's parents died three years before. On page 69, we find out why she and Gloria have been estranged.

Justine sits down to breakfast with Gloria and it is as if she is a child again. Gloria has made her a glorious meal by wartime standards—eggs, toast, butter, coffee with sugar and cream—and for a moment it is as if no time has passed…until she remembers why it has been so long since she’s had such delicious food. She looks across the table and sees Gloria drinking black coffee and eating dry toast. In a world of rationing, Justine is eating a fantastical meal, and she shouldn't be.
Gloria couldn’t afford to give away her eggs. Her milk, Her bread. Her coffee. And, dear God, certainly not her precious sugar….Justine knew exactly how close to the edge her godmother’s budget was. If she’d let Gloria do what she’d wanted to do when her parents died—put a roof over Justine’s head and send her to college—the house where they sat would have been gone in months….So Justine had run. She’d run from Gloria’s need to take care of her, even at the expense of her own future.
On page 69, Justine divides the sumptuous meal with Gloria and, in so doing, renegotiates her oldest relationship. She establishes herself as an adult who will not let Gloria destroy herself for love. From this moment, they will move forward in love and mutual respect, but Justine will never be a child again.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

The Page 69 Test: Plunder.

The Page 69 Test: Rituals.

Q&A with Mary Anna Evans.

My Book, The Movie: The Physicists' Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue