ANNA Kerrigan is intimately acquainted with the unconventional side of life.
Not only has Anna grown up in an all-female household in a rough-and-tumble area of Brooklyn with no man as its protector but her mother is a former Broadway chorus-line dancer, her younger sister is chronically disabled, her aunt is an aging alcoholic seductress whose looks are sagging and her now-absent father forged his way in the Great Depression by “running errands’ for one of New York City’s most notorious crime lords.
It’s hardly surprising that when Anna enters a workforce depleted by the demands of war she is not content to accept one of the menial conveyor-belt roles traditionally allotted to women.
Instead, Anna quickly sets her sights on becoming a Brooklyn Navy Yard maintenance diver – a position so elusive that far more men fail the rigorous training process than complete the life-threateningly dangerous and emotionally draining course.
Surviving in Brooklyn is a challenge for any young woman, let alone one employed on the waterfront. With her instructor manoeuvring openly against her and her classmates offering virtually no co-operation, let alone support, she appears to have little chance of succeeding.
Anna is single-minded in her determination to join the program, however, and equally set on investigating a wispy recollection from childhood that appears to link her late father, Eddie, with a handsome and charismatic New York club licensee and gang leader, Dexter Styles.
Her disregard for the social mores that reign in the 1940s pits Anna against not only conservative individuals within her own community but the broader New York hierarchy at large – a hierarchy that invariably favours men with influence or wealth over even the most resourceful and committed teenage girl.
Part family saga, part underworld thriller, Manhattan Beach delivers a masterfully imagined storyline fleshed out with intricate, factual historic detail.