Cover Image: The Woman with Two Shadows

The Woman with Two Shadows

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Member Reviews

The Woman with Two Shadows is intriguing beyond compare. Sarah James crafts an ingenious story based on perhaps the most threatening world event in the 20th century; she articulates a mystery as fascinating as anything I have previously read.

The narrative is in the first person of Lillian Kaufman, the 7-minute-elder twin to Eleanor Kaufman. Lillian is a brilliant mathematician with ambitions to win the Allerton Prize and gain her place at Harvard University. She was obsessed; mathematics was her life, and there was no room for typical girly pastimes. On the other hand, Eleanor represents the epitome of girly and uses her outgoing personality to gain her most wanted desire; a critical acting role. She gets an immense opportunity to try for a lead role, but the timetable threatens Lillian's plans to go to Harvard, and the two have a falling out. 

When Eleanor's acting role gets postponed, she joins the army on March 30th, 1945, and goes off to Tennessee, leaving an unusual coolness between the twins. After two months, Lillian has heard nothing from Eleanor; Max Medelson phones Lillian and asks her to come to Tennessee because Eleanor has disappeared.

I love the way Sarah James juxtaposes identical twins with different personalities and provides a detailed look at how Lillian manages to assume Eleanor's psyche. I enjoyed the construction technique, which includes using parts of the beginning and end of the story in layers and repeating the method as many times as required, thus making the story exciting all the way through. In addition, the prose expeditiously moves the story along in all its intricate details. A bonus for this reader is the inclusion of many rules of physics to explain both scientific and non-scientific concepts.

The author reveals a delightfully complicated coming-of-age interest for Lillian and Eleanor: involving Max Medelson, a physicist whom Lillian thinks of as an idiot; and Dr. Andrew Ennis (famous as the man who yelled at Niels Bohr), who occupies the critical position of Project Director at the Clinton Engineering Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

I rate The Woman with Two Shadows 5 out of 5 stars for its passion, creativity, and research - all in a highly readable package. I found nothing to dislike; however, some readers may not wish to ponder the moral dilemmas re-examined through Lillian's, Max's, and Andrew's discussions. 

I recommend it to scientists, physicists, politicians, and institutions of learning with the caveat that a critical theme represents a dark reflection of human nature.
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This one was an ok read for me I loved the history behind it and the setting but I couldn’t engage with the characters but overall it was a good read, 
Thanks for letting me review this book to Netgalley and the publisher
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For those readers of historical fiction, this book will interest you.  Set in Oak Ridge, Tennessee  in the 1940's. the novel is about people involved in working on the atomic bomb.  A woman's twin sister who was working there has mysteriously disappeared, the other sister assumes her identity to find out what happened to her.  Maybe because I have read similar stories about this time and place but this book just did not keep my attention.
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This was an interesting world war 2 fiction about a secret facility in the US towards the waning years of the war. It is the story of twins, of how one sister goes missing and the other comes in to find out what went wrong. It is the story of relationships and of how two people can be so different yet so connected. It is an endearing story that is worth atleast a one time read.
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First let me thank Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for me honest review.  I was happy to read this book, and I am happy to provide my honest review. 

I knew nothing going into this book about the camp in Tennessee and its association with the Manhattan Project.  So right off the bat this book had an interesting premise, hence my interest. 

What I enjoyed: finding out more about the inner workings of the Manhattan project, and realizing just how large in scope the project was.  I found it interesting that they were conducting experiments on people with radioactive materials, and that they were doing this well past the time of Germany's surrender. 

The perspective of the scientists on this project, who sought to push the technology in spite of the obvious moral dilemma a weapon of that magnitude posed is compelling.  How do we not see these scientists as mad men?

I was disappointed in the lack of exploration into the medical experimentation, frankly that was such an interesting component to this story, its what held my attention, but Lillian's trip into the hospital and their learning what happened to Betty's boyfriend, was so short and abrupt that there was really no conclusion.  It was like, this happened, it horrible, but that's it, time to move on to the love story. 

Lillian is not a likable character.  I think the author tried to make her complex, the dichotomy of the twins was certainly interesting.  But Lillian herself was not at all likable.  And the love story between her and Ennis, is sort of a strange addition.  The character of Ennis himself, was probably my favorite.  He was complex, he had secrets, he was the madman scientists pushing the envelope beyond what is deemed moral.  

I don't know, I felt like this story didn't go in the direction I thought it would, and therefore the story wasn't quite as compelling as I had hoped.  The writing itself was good, it certainly kept my attention.  I would have enjoyed more exploration into the human experimentation and the results of the testing of the bombs.  And of course an afterward where the characters are force to come to some sort of grip with their role in the morality of creating the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  did they feel remorse for that? Was the tragedy of the story merely a casualty in the name of progress and intellectual superiority?
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Love the setting for this one, a "secret" city, Oak RIdge, TN, in WWII.  Lillian is a bossy, orderly woman whose twin sister, Eleanor, has gone missing from Oak Ridge.  She travels to Oak Ridge and assumes her sister's identity to figure out what has happened to her sister, and what is going on in Oak Ridge.  I am a sucker for twins in novels, especially in trading places.  I was interested in both mysteries and enjoyed the ride.
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I think fans of historical fiction will find much to enjoy in THE WOMAN WITH TWO SHADOWS. The premise is fantastic and I love how the author picked a portion of American history that some readers won't be immediately familiar with. I grew up in western NC so I have heard about Oak Ridge but didn't, of course, know the details of what went on there. 

I also really enjoyed the missing sister aspect to the plot, which keeps the reader turning the pages.

Like other early readers, I had a little bit of a hard time keeping the characters straight at first, but I quickly settled in to the narrative.

I look forward to reading more from this author.
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“The Woman with Two Shadows” is a debut novel by Sarah James. 

I had a difficult time keeping Lillian and Eleanor apart for about 20% of this book. Eventually I realized that the main focus was on Lillian trying to find out where Eleanor went. Lillian and Eleanor are identical twins with very different personalities. Lillian is more orderly thinking (science is her jam) while Eleanor is more whatever happens, happens. Lillian gets a phone call from a man Eleanor dated - saying that Eleanor’s gone missing. Lillian decides to go to Oak Ridge, TN in order to find her sister. While in Oak Ridge, Lillian (who is pretending to be Eleanor) learns that Eleanor was seeing a prominent scientist - and Lillian becomes a member of his scientific group. From there, questions arise - what happened to Eleanor? Who are the ‘spies’ in Oak Ridge - and on whose side are they passing on secrets? What is the big secret in Oak Ridge?

That’s the background of the story. I will admit that while I’ve read a tiny bit about Oak Ridge previously, I ended up doing a bit of research online - which at times cleared up what was happening on the pages. I think that Ms. James did a good job at explaining things in Oak Ridge, but for this reader, I needed more to understand what was going on - fission vs fusion was okay, but I actually ended up chatting with a science major friend for further scientific details (unlike Lillian, I don’t think in physics, math, and science - it needs to be explained a lot). There was another part where, I have to admit, I ceased reading and polled a few science friends - none agreed with a point mentioned in the book (it’s minor, but it’s about a safe). I didn’t really find Lillian likable, but I could understand (at times) why she thought and behaved the way she did (although not telling her sister something and then betraying her sister’s trust I found, well, hurtful and odd for someone with such ‘high’ values).

In some ways this book moved along at a slow pace, but then it rather galloped to an ending. I would’ve preferred this book to be more linear in telling - opposed to the flashbacks. I liked the idea of this book, but it didn’t always work in execution. I think I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. As this is Ms. James’s debut novel, I’d read another book by her as I found this, as I said, an interesting idea. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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This was an interesting read and even though I wasn't drawn to any of the characters I still found it enjoyable.
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Lillian, the main character of the book and most certainly the main character in her own world isn't very likeable in my mind. Early in life she is deeply affected by her father's death and mother's existence thereafter. As a twin she makes the decision that she must be responsible for her sister Eleanor.
This is an interesting enough story. Unraveling threads give hints as to why Lillian is driven to find her missing twin. Her journey into a secret military 'town' crosses paths with Eleanor's former boyfriend and the new man her family has no knowledge of. Lillian becomes acquainted with the head of the top-secret project her sister went to work in. Andrew is intriguing and at least equal to her intelligence level. In ways he is like her. Self- centered, self-important. As she has assumed her sister's identity things get intense. The reader learns about the historical significance of this project and how it marks the world and it's future. The descriptive writing about the life and 'job' was quite interesting to me.

I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for my advanced reader's copy of this book. If nothing else, it has made me think. I learned something years ago and that is that no character can be perfect. No character can be all evil nor can one be all good. This story shows this very well. There is a lot going on in this story. In my honest opinion there was no main character who I cared about. I'm not sorry I read the book. It is different. You will have to make your own decision if you would find it interesting.
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An historical mystery in which a sister searching for her missing sister in Oak Ridge Tennessee assumes her identify. I found this fiction book to be very informative about Oka Ridge Tennessee one of America’s best kept WWII secrets. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
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