by Julie HaleJuly 2006
An Atomic Romance
This is Mason's first novel in 10 years, and it's a welcome return. Set in rural Kentucky, An Atomic Romance tells the story of handsome, introspective Reed Futrell. Divorced with two adult children, Reed, who is in his 40s, works at the local uranium-enrichment plant. The plant provides the majority of jobs in the area, but it makes headlines for all the wrong reasons when plutonium leaks are reported there. The risks are undeniable: Reed's father died at the age of 36 due to an accident at the plant involving lethal chemicals, and Reed himself suspects that he has been exposed to high levels of plutonium, although he tries to make light of the possibility especially around his girlfriend Julia, a biologist. She believes that the leaks are an indication of larger problems, while he defends the plant as a source of economic growth and well-paying jobs. Julia and Reed spar over these matters, while at the same time supplying the book's lighthearted romantic center. Offering some down-home comedic relief is the presence of Reed's drinking buddy, Burl, who seems to spend more time in jail than anywhere else. Mason writes with intuitiveness and wisdom about marriage, family and environmental issues, striking just the right balance to produce a novel that will delight her many fans. A reading group guide is included in the book.