Books: The Fallout of War

A six-year-old girl lies in a hospital bed as foreign doctors poke at the blistering bruises tracing her body. Baffled, they fill petri dishes with bits of her skin and scribble detailed notes about the sores that flower bright pink and yellow. She can see her little brother next to her, and she holds his hand between their cots. Soon, her brother will die, his breath giving way to a malady humanity has never seen before: the effects of nuclear radiation.

Dennis Bock's well-wrought first novel The Ash Garden (Knopf; 281 pages) cuts...

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