“Fat Man and Little Boy,” a Quirky Journey of Two Atomic Bombs
Mike Meginnis’s debut novel Fat Man and Little Boy begins with an unusual premise: the two atomic bombs Americans dropped on Japan during WWII are personified and emerge from the wreckage as real people. Little Boy rises after hitting Hiroshima, and Fat Man after Nagasaki. The two find each other and realize they’re brothers. Together they journey through Japan, observing its destruction while feeling guilty about what they have caused. Their journey takes them to France and then Hollywood, leaving a trail of carnage and crime behind them as they try to figure out their sense of self and live some semblance of a real life.
Meginnis’s novel is as beautiful as it is odd. The novel dips in several genres–magical realism, crime, historical fiction–but never fully stays in either of them. Instead, the novel is less interested in constructing a fast-paced narrative and more focused on creating an allegory about historical calamities and our complacent role in them. Most importantly, it shows how destruction, however in denial we are, inevitably comes back to us. Fat Man and Little Boy might capture the ugliness of war, but its poetic attention to flawed characters and existential angst makes it a novel that sticks with you.