Book Review: Rocket Girl by George D. Morgan


Rocket girlTitle: Rocket Girl

Author: George D. Morgan

Summary: This is the extraordinary true story of America’s first female rocket scientist, told by her son. It describes Mary Sherman Morgan’s crucial contribution to launching America’s first satellite and the author’s labyrinthine journey to uncover his mother’s lost legacy – a legacy buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal. Blending a fascinating personal history with dramatic historical events taking place on the world stage, this compelling narrative brings long-overdue attention to a modest but brilliant woman whose work proved essential for America’s early space program. In 1938, a young German rocket enthusiast named Wernher von Braun had dreams of building a rocket that could fly him to the moon. On the opposite side of the world, a young farm girl named Mary Sherman was attending high school in Ray, North Dakota. In an age when girls rarely dreamed of a career in science, Mary wanted to be a chemist. A decade later the dreams of these two disparate individuals would coalesce in ways neither could have imagined. In a vivid narrative, Morgan relates how World War II and the Cold War space race with the Russians changed the fates of both von Braun and his mother. When von Braun and other top engineers could not find a solution to the repeated failures that plagued the nascent US rocket program, North American Aviation, where Mary Sherman Morgan then worked, was given the challenge. Recognizing her talent for chemistry, company management turned the assignment over to young Mary. In the end, America succeeded in launching rockets into space, but only because of the joint efforts of the brilliant farm girl from North Dakota and the famous German scientist. While von Braun went on to become a high-profile figure in NASA’s manned space flight, Mary Sherman Morgan and her contributions fell into obscurity. -Goodreads

Review:

**Warning: Contains minor spoilers**

Rocket Girl was… interesting.  This book isn’t like the usual fun stuff I read, but it was rather enjoyable.  I think it kind of had a To Kill A Mockingbird feel.  Not that the stories were similar (far from it, actually, as Scout’s father was very supportive of her and wanted her and her brother to go to school, whereas Mary’s father wanted her to work on the farm), but I didn’t expect to like To Kill A Mockingbird, and I did!  I also didn’t expect to like Rocket Girl, but guess what?  I.  DID.

The story was very interesting but also confusing at times.  (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

The first thing I noticed was George Morgan’s writing style.  I don’t know what it is about it, but I really liked it.

After I read more of the book, George talks about a conversation he had with his sister, Monica, about their mother’s OCD.  They also talked about one of my favorite shows, Monk, during this time, so that got me all the more interested!

This story had me confused quite a lot.  Maybe it was because I felt like we were switching between so many POVs without much warning.  I wish that if we were talking about Mary, the title could have had some indication that we were, indeed, going to be reading about Mary.  Or, if we were reading about von Braun, I wish we had some indication that we were talking about von Braun.  It was dizzying!  Honestly, though, I was mainly interested in Mary’s story, not a whirlwind of POVs.

Rocket Girl definitely had some funny moments.  My favorite part was when one of the workers said, “How exactly do you measure degrees of secrecy?”  That was funny!

Mary also kind of reminded me of Greg House, haha!  If you watch House, you know how he takes his team of doctors into his office and has them list and rule out whatever it is that could be wrong with a patient.  And then he’ll write all their suggestions on his whiteboard.  Mary did something similar.  She had a team, too.  Two men who had just graduated.  And I remember at one point she’d gathered them at her little desk and she had a chalkboard and together they ruled out and listed a bunch of chemical mixtures.

The other thing that totally confused me was the chemical mixtures and measurements and cocktails and stuff.

Overall, this book was great.  There was suspense and comedy and all that good stuff.  4.5/5 stars!

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