The Tennessee Valley Authority was established in the 1930s
to bring electricity to seven states in the rural Tennessee River
Valley. The dams it built resulted in the flooding of many small towns.
In Long Man, Amy Greene
imagines the fictional Tennessee town of Yuneetah just before it’s to
be flooded when the dam on Long Man River is opened. Residents of the
town that’s decaying anyway have accepted government compensation and
started new lives elsewhere, but Greene’s protagonist, Annie Clyde
Dodson, is a holdout.
Annie Clyde’s husband, James, has a job waiting for him in Detroit, but Annie Clyde wants their three-year-old daughter, Gracie, to grow up on the family farm — or at least to know that her mother fought for it. It’s tense enough that Annie Clyde hasn’t budged three days before the scheduled flooding, but then Gracie disappears, triggering a search that involves Sheriff Ellard Moody and Sam Washburn, the TVA’s case worker. The prime suspect is a drifter, Amos, who was raised by an old mountain woman and bedded by Annie Clyde’s aunt. Greene fully characterizes all of these colorful people, none more vividly than the stubborn, unsociable Annie Clyde.
Long Man succeeds as both a thriller and a historical novel on a subject that remains timely. The demand for the TVA is still debated: was it necessary for the common good or an gratuitous intrusion on private lives and property?
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