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The Cassandra

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  743 ratings  ·  192 reviews
The Cassandra follows a woman who goes to work in a top secret research facility during WWII, only to be tormented by visions of what the mission will mean for humankind.

Mildred Groves is an unusual young woman. Gifted and cursed with the ability to see the future, Mildred runs away from home to take a secretary position at the Hanford Research Center in the early 1940s. H
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Henry Holt & Company
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Writing this review hurts me a little because this was easily one of my most anticipated books of 2019, but I'm sorry, this was pretty terrible. The premise was genius: it's the story of the Greek mythological figure Cassandra retold and set at Hanford, the research facility in the U.S. that developed the atomic bomb during WWII. But I had four main problems with The Cassandra that I just couldn't get over: characters, plot, themes, and its success (or failure rather) as an adaptation, so let's ...more
I have complicated feelings about this book. So before I dive into all that, let’s get this one out of the way: I enjoyed it. You definitely should read this book. Now on to my complications.

This book addresses so many issues. Mental illness, the morality of the nuclear arms race, the treatment of women in a male-dominated workforce.

Without the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, I literally wouldn’t exist. My grandmother was in the secretarial pool at Hanford during the war, just like our main charact
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The Cassandra by Sharma Shields is a retelling of the classic Cassandra myth, set at the Hanford nuclear facility during World War II. Full disclosure, I once again missed that it was a myth retelling until after I read it.

Mildred gets a job at Hanford as a secretary, and happily leaves home in Omak, Washington, where she had been her mother's caregiver. There is also a sense that she tried to kill her mother, but this isn't immediately explained.

Once at Hanford, the other women discover that Mi
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved Sharma's first novel (The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac) and though this didn't quite reach such dizzying heights, I still felt it was a strong and for the most part, enjoyable read. Although it doesn't hue as closely to its mythological underpinnings as some other recent offerings (Home Fire; Everything Under) that didn't really bother me, as it was never intended to be such. I found the view into the development of the atomic bomb, of which I knew very little, fascinating, and Shar ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarything
Sharma Shield's novel The Cassandra was a very dark read. The protagonist Mildred Groves' gift of prophecy alienates her from her family and the larger society. She struggles with a desire to fit in while visions reveal horrifying inevitabilities and men's true natures.

Mildred ceases the chance to escape her suffocating home and needy mother, thrilled to find work at a WWII government research facility in a remote part of Washington on the Columbia River. The "project" will shorten the war,
Geonn Cannon
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5. I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I'm not sure why exactly it didn't work for me, and I think it might be that I just never quite warmed to the main character. The setting and plot were great, and Mildred was perfectly of her time. She was exactly the type of person you might find rebelling against the family and society expectations set in front of her, but I also kind of found her bland. She made the biggest decision of her life because of a vision. She didn't make a choic ...more
Maddie O.
This is more of a 2.5 but I’m rounding down. I think the author tried to do too much here, and it didn’t lend itself to a cohesive narrative. Totally not saying that books shouldn’t be multidimensional, but I felt like the different dimensions of this book were disjointed and didn’t weave themselves together properly.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a most unusual novel. I loved the author’s writing style. It was at first hard to warm up to the protagonist but before long I found myself inside the character’s head, almost a Being John Malkovich thing without being spit out on the jersey turnpike.

This novel told of a powerful and chilling nightmare, both internally and externally. The biggest nightmare really happened externally in history. The nightmare that went on within the protagonist was merely a reflection of the havoc human
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Cassandra had such an interesting premise: a young woman who has very clear and graphic visions of the future is excited to leave her dysfunctional and claustrophobic family life to work as a secretary at the mysterious Hanford government research facility in Washington, but once there begins to suffer from visions of the death and destruction that will be brought about by the nuclear bombs for which Hanford is supplying the plutonium. I liked that it was a modern retelling of the Cassandra ...more
Feb 28, 2019 marked it as dnf
Shelves: arcs-netgalley
DNF @ 21%

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to speak prophecies that no one would ever believe. Sharma Shields’ Cassandra is a woman who also possesses the ability to prophesize and when she goes to work for the research facility that created the atomic bomb during WWII, her protestations fall on deaf ears when she tries to warn everyone of what’s to come. The plot of this one sounded fascinating and I was anxiously awaiting my opportunity to read it but unfortunately, I found Cassandra’s
Crystal King
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Cassandra is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth, this time set in Washington state. It begins in the town where my own father grew up and so I immediately felt a connection to the character...Omak is not a place well known to many! Mildred ends up at Hanford during WWII when the nuclear plant was most instrumental in making the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind..This is not an easy tale to read emotionally, (particularly in our tumultuous times) but it is brilliantly t ...more
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to Henry Holt & Company for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A haunting and beautifully written book.
I want to add that I had an impromptu book club discussion about this book with some friends. It was the best book club discussion we've ever had. The book is very thought provoking and lends itself well to book clubs.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book descriptions tend to give too much away, so I often merely skim them to determine interest. From skimming this one I expected something with war experiments and psychics along the lines of mind control experiments of 50s, 60s and 70s, but this is essentially Manhattan Project material. Creation and implementation of the atomic bombs during the end of WWII as witnessed by a helpless prophet. Cassandra is a tragic figure of Greek Mythology. There are different versions of the story, but tradi ...more
Literary Redhead
I highly recommend “The Cassandra: A Novel” by Sharma Shields, a modern day slant on the Cassandra myth, only this time with a young woman who works in a top secret research facility during WWII tormented by visions of what the mission will mean for humankind. She risks all by questioning those in power, demonstrating great bravery and spiritual inspiration as she “sounds” the metaphoric alarm bell. 5/5

Pub Date 12 Feb 2019

Thanks to Henry Holt & Company and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions
mad mags
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Hugely disappointing.

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for child abuse and racist and misogynist violence, including rape.)

This—the butchery, the dripping floor—was what kingdoms of men did to one another. We were no more than instruments of hatred.

DNF at 65%.

Mildred Groves has always been haunted by visions. Actually, "haunted" is the wrong word: as terrible and disturbing as her visions are, Mildred welcomes them, like an old friend or secu
Jan 09, 2019 marked it as to-read
Based in mythology, The Cassandra is a harrowing read. Cassandra was a prophet with the gift of true visions of the future, and the curse of no one ever believing her visions are true. Imagine seeing the fruition of The Manhattan Project before it actually happens. Now, imagine having no way to stop what you have seen, and everyone believes you are just some crazy person. The story is straight up bleak. The characters are engaging and tragic. I liked the story overall because I'm interested in t ...more
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
Reading THE CASSANDRA is a monumental Reading Experience. I read it in a matter of hours because I couldn't turn away, I couldn't stop reading, and I thought about it all night afterwards. This literary historical novel was my first introduction to author Sharma Shields, and it "blew me away." I'd long been interested in the World War II history of Hanford, Washington, so I was excited to discover this novel, but I received far more than I expected. Not only is Sharma Shields an incredibly gifte ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An Entertaining Modern Retelling Of The Classic Greek Myth.

I enjoyed this retelling quite a bit. I loved the ways the author modernized the story, part historical fiction part fantasy. It was pretty powerful and a lot of great symbolism is used. I really liked the time period this is set in too. How the author showed the way women were treated at this time. Also its interesting how Mildred a person with prophetic visions is labeled as mentally ill where in Ancient times would have been more lik
Tad Wisenor
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, this is one fascinating and troubling read, and I would encourage you not to enter it lightly. As a resident of Eastern Washington, I particularly enjoyed the way small town mid-century life was captured. More importantly, I appreciated the peek inside life at Hanford during the development of the atomic program: the haste, the secrecy, the narrowly focused goals that failed to take into consideration larger human and environmental impacts. But at the heart, I cared about Mildred. I know thi ...more
Edwin Howard
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mildred Groves in THE CASSANDRA, by Sharma Shields, wants to escape the life she has been dealt caretaking for her cantankerous, angry mother. She finds a job at Hanford, a secret government base where the "product" is being created and help is needed by the bus full. Mildred develops friendships and relishes in her new life, but quickly her hidden ability, having accurate visions of the future, begins to overwhelm her life and reveal so many truths to her that she finds it hard to live in the ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The pretty ones, the loud ones, the impossible ones, were prodded and bedded and beaten. Some complained of the rats and of the food, which looked and tasted like vomit. I tried not to frown at these bellyachers or appear too condescending.

What do you expect? This is womanhood, boiled down.

The Cassandra is a bleak read, absolutely. It's angry, it's ugly, and it's gruesome. Sharma Shields created a world to mirror our own-- one without any redemptive qualities. The characters are caricature
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Greek Cassandra in WWII Manhattan Project - sounds like a good storyline. Picked this book randomly off the shelf at the library for some flight reading. The female characters sound like they were written by a man, so the fact that they were written by a female is just disturbing. Book is set in WWII, but there are a few paragraphs of the author ranting through the main character about displacing American indians, ruining the environment, 21st-century feminism, etc. Those in themselves don't rui ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Not my usual fare, but I was drawn to this book by the cover. It is dark and filled with nightmarish visions... so fractured, though, that I was left without a real sense of who the main character truly was and what was real and what was imagined.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the 1940’s Mildred Groves lives at home with her oppressive mother and catty and mean sister but runs away from home to join a facility in Oregon that works on the Atom bomb. She is blessed but mostly cursed with an ability to see the future. It causes her to hallucinate and sleepwalk and contributes to people thinking that she is crazy. At the camp, she makes friends and proves her value even while not quite being seen as an equal with her male colleagues. But it is still better than living ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2019-reads
3.5 stars, rounded up.

Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. via Netgalley for my advanced digital copy of this book!

"What did it mean to be born white in this country, to speak a language germinated not here but overseas? To infest and control but to never belong or care for, like a parasite? What horrors had we committed. what horrors did we continue to commit, to the original inhabitants?

The Cassandra is one of the most unique books I have read in a long time, and takes a much different look at the ev
Sakae Manning
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shields delivers a quirky, yet centered, protagonist in Mildred Groves. She's single in a time when women were claimed by men. Mildred escapes her overbearing mother and sister only to find her gifts foretell of more ominous matters than the consuming of women's souls by men. From Ch 1, "To Make Men Free," I was excited, anticipating some interesting traversing was going to take place. The Cassandra didn't disappoint. From Shields use of language, to incorporating the setting, a place so familia ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
An optimistic, awkward soothsayer with a nearly demonic home life accepts a job (as she knows she will) at Hanford, the birthplace of the hydrogen bomb. She begins to have visions of a future nuclear holocaust and impending local deaths. Like her titular predecessor, she tries to warn her peers, and, also like her predecessor, things turn to shit when she does. It gets pretty brutal. Shields doesn't hold back when it comes to horrifying imagery, which is good given the gravity of her topic, whic ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Mildred Groves lives through a modern version of a classic story that always found particularly tragic: the story of Cassandra. Mildred has a gift–and a curse–inherited from her grandmother. Her ability to see the future (usually horrible, untimely deaths) is never taken seriously by the people she reveals it to. Some people just credit her with an active imagination. More often, people call her crazy. The ones who are really freaked out by Mildred call her a witch. In The Cassandra, the astonis ...more
Kris Dinnison
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this dark, sweeping, personal book. Having grown up in Richland, Washington, I thought I knew a lot about Hanford, but Shields helped me see my hometown in a whole new light. I loved how complex Mildred is, and I loved how much her story as a woman resonates so much today. The novel skillfully carries us back and forth across the divide between the "real" world and the world of Mildred's visions, and prepares us inch by inch for the destruction, both personal and global, that is the seem ...more
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Sharma Shields is the author of a short story collection, Favorite Monster, and two novels, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac and The Cassandra. Sharma’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Electric Lit, Catapult, Slice, Slate, Fairy Tale Review, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Fugue, and elsewhere and have garnered such prizes as the 2020 PNBA Award, 2016 Washington State Book ...more

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