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Written by Amy GreeneAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Amy Greene



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Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-95846-4
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

From the critically acclaimed author of Bloodroot, a gripping, wondrously evocative novel of a family in turmoil, set against the backdrop of real-life historical event—the story of three days in the summer of 1936, as a government-built dam is about to flood an Appalachian town, and a little girl goes missing.

A river called Long Man has coursed through East Tennessee from time immemorial, bringing sustenance to the people who farm along its banks and who trade among its small towns. But as Long Man opens, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to dam the river and flood the town of Yuneetah for the sake of progress—to bring electricity and jobs to the region—are about to take effect. Just a few days remain before the river will rise, and most of the town has been evacuated. Among the holdouts is a young, headstrong mother, Annie Clyde Dodson, whose ancestors have lived for generations on her mountaintop farm; she’ll do anything to ensure that her three-year-old daughter, Gracie, will inherit the family’s land. But her husband wants to make a fresh start in Michigan, where he’s found work that will bring the family a more secure future. As the deadline looms, a storm as powerful as the emotions between them rages outside their door. Suddenly they realize that Gracie is nowhere to be found. Has the little girl simply wandered off into the rain? Or has she been taken by Amos, the mysterious drifter who has come back to Yuneetah, perhaps to save his hometown in a last, desperate act of violence?

Suspenseful, visceral, gorgeously told, Long Man is a searing portrait of a tight-knit community brought together by change and crisis, and of one family facing a terrifying ticking clock. A novel set in history that resonates with our own times, it is a dazzling and unforgettable tour de force.

Excerpt

He had tried to make her see. Staying in the valley to farm would take years off their lives, and probably Gracie’s. People lived longer up north, where the workdays were shorter and the pay was better, where there were hospitals minutes and not hours away. Gracie could go to school and become a nurse herself if she chose. Annie Clyde might get homesick but it would be worth the adjustment. Even with the dam, there were fewer opportunities here than there were in the cities. He and Annie Clyde were still young. In Detroit they could figure out what path they wanted to take. In Tennessee, every path led to the graveyard. But he guessed he’d been losing his wife before the power company ever came along and opened up the rift that was already between them. Annie Clyde still had some notion that he resented her. James couldn’t seem to convince her otherwise. All because of a handbill advertising factory work. He would have given anything to go back to the beginning of their marriage and leave it tacked to the post office wall. Annie Clyde was distant by nature but he had been winning her over until she found that paper. He had picked it up without thinking, so used to planning his escape before he saw her. He had tucked it into his pocket and forgotten about it. No matter what she believed, he wouldn’t have abandoned her. He had only hoped she could be persuaded to leave Tennessee after her mother died. Then she saw the handbill and a distance crept back into her eyes that had widened in the last two years. James didn’t want to lose Annie Clyde like his parents, like the sister he hadn’t seen in ages. He worried that he had already, even if he got his way and she left for Michigan with him tomorrow. But more than any- thing, he worried that she might not come with him at all.
 
As he worked to spark the truck’s engine, stomping the starter and pulling the choke until it finally sputtered to life, he thought of the way she looked at him lately without much feeling. But he remembered being loved by her. How in hot weather she would carry water out to him in an earthen jug. He’d stop plowing long enough to drink, runnels trickling into his dusty shirt collar. Once during a drought the earth was so dry that it boiled up to cover him, clogging his throat and blinding his eyes. She led him by the hand to a redbud tree and as he lay stretched out in the shade beside her she took his bandana from the bib of his overalls. She dipped it in the jug to bathe away the dirt then tied it dripping around his sunburnt neck. As she pressed her lips against his she took his face into her hands, holding him still as if there was anything he would rather be doing than kissing her. He was counting on her to remember that day. He was praying that when the time came to go in the morning she would love him enough to choose him.
 
Steering the Ford past the cornfield and up the track, he felt lonelier than he’d ever been. Not even Rusty greeted him when he pulled up to the house. He heard the dog barking, tied out by the barn. He went up the porch steps and leaned against the door to pull off his muddy boots, resting with his eyes closed before turning the knob. When he stepped into the dim front room it was so quiet that he thought for a second Annie Clyde was gone. She had taken Gracie and left him. Then he heard Gracie’s chirping voice in the kitchen and followed the sound to the table. “We meant to wait on you but she got too hungry,” Annie Clyde said, glancing up from her plate. Her food looked untouched. Corn bread and soup beans, sliced tomato, fried chicken.
 
Gracie climbed out of her chair and ran to James. He lifted and turned her upside down to make her laugh. “You’re getting heavy,” he teased as he set her feet back on the floor. Then he went to Annie Clyde and touched her shoulder. He noticed how she tensed but he was grateful when she covered his hand with her own. “What about the truck?” she asked, not looking at him.
 
He pulled out a chair across from her. “It’s running, that’s about all I can say for it.”
 
“Sit down and let me fix you a plate,” she said, getting up and going to the stove where the beans still simmered. She brought back his dinner and slid an apple pie onto the tabletop. Gracie sat on her knees and poked at the steaming crust, licking off the stickiness. James thought of the day she was born. He was so struck by the blood on the sheets, in the shape of a bird with widespread wings, that he didn’t look at the baby. But once he was sure Annie Clyde was all right, he went to see what she held in her arms. The room was filled with light. Like that day he saw Annie Clyde standing there, a new creature on the riverbank. Gracie had a dark head of hair and little fists curled under her chin. She seemed at first like another part of Annie Clyde, but later he saw that she was her own self. She had a temper and was too stubborn to cry even when she got hurt. She liked being carried and rode everywhere on his hip. When James forked hay, mice would fall down from the bundles and scurry off, making her laugh and clap her hands. In summer she hunkered down in the loam to look for sow bugs under the rocks while James weeded the garden and Annie Clyde picked beans squatted on her haunches, deft fingers shaking the leaves and sweat making patches of damp on her summer dress. In autumn when they burned brush Gracie watched the glowing embers shoot up, the heat lulling her still long enough for James to see how much she resembled Annie Clyde. He tried to picture her in Detroit. In the tract house he had rented with one naked lightbulb in the center of the front room. Instead of mountains she would see tall buildings there. Instead of burning brush she would smell hot tar. “This is some good corn bread,” he said, to ward off his sadness.
 
“Gracie stirred the batter,” Annie Clyde told him.
“Did you? What else did you do?”
“I got some apples,” she said.
He pointed his fork at her pie. “Ain’t you going to share?”
She shook her head, eyes shining.
“Give your daddy a bite,” Annie Clyde said.
Gracie scooped up a sticky clump and held it out for James to gobble off her fingers.
“I swear, it’s like having two younguns,” Annie Clyde said, but she was smiling. “If you’re done playing with that, Gracie, go wash your hands. Your face, too, while you’re at it.”
 
Gracie climbed down from her chair and went out. James listened as she padded to the end of the hall where the washstand stood and scraped back the wooden stool she used to reach the enamel bowl. He felt a sinking. Without her the kitchen was closer and darker. After a spell of silence Annie Clyde got up and headed for the door to rake her scraps to the dog. James tried to go on eating but found that his appetite was gone. He couldn’t bear the strain anymore. He made up his mind to have it out with Annie Clyde at last. To say all that had gone unsaid for the past two years. They had to if they meant to start over in Michigan. But when Annie Clyde came inside and cleared the dishes from the table, he couldn’t bring himself to say anything at all. He stared at her, bent over the basin. He wished Gracie would come back but she had quit splashing at the washstand and gone off most likely to play with her dolls. James was alone with his wife. When the dishes were done he would have to say something. He watched her taking time with each cup and utensil, washing some of them twice. Scrubbing the bread pan after it was clean. Drying the plates one by one until they squeaked, putting him off. She seemed to know what was coming. He glanced up at the wall clock. It was almost three. His tailbone was sore on the cane seat. Finally she turned around with the dishrag in her fist, pale and drawn. James blinked. Nothing he’d planned to say came out. What did was the truth he guessed he had known.
 
“Annie Clyde,” he said. “You don’t mean to come with me. Do you?”
She didn’t answer, but her face told him enough.
His shoulders sagged. “I was wrong the other night.”
“James,” she said.
“You love Gracie better than life.”
“Please hush.”
“Why don’t you love me, though?”
She looked pained. “I do.”
“Where do you aim to go?”
“I’m staying here.”
“There ain’t no staying here.”
“We’ll live in Whitehall County.”
“And do what?”
“I could farm a few acres.”
“By yourself ?”
“Yes. We’ll be all right.”
His hands clenched on the table. “You and Gracie.”
She looked at him again without speaking.
“You can’t have my little girl, Annie Clyde.”
She shook her head. “No. That’s not what I meant.”
“She’s as much mine as she is yours.”
Annie Clyde paused, twisting the dishrag. “Then stay with us.”
James fell silent. He rubbed his forehead. “You know I’d do anything for you and Gracie. But I can’t—” Before he could go on the storm that had been brewing all day broke loose, barraging the tin roof with rain. They both looked up, startled. Annie Clyde had dropped the dishrag. As she stooped to grab it her eyes settled on a fallen lump of Gracie’s apple pie.
 
“Just come with me,” James was saying. “I ain’t never begged you for nothing before.”
 
Annie Clyde glanced around the kitchen, not seeming to see him anymore. She started for the doorway but James blocked her path. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Don’t ignore me, Annie Clyde. I’ve had enough of that.” He saw the color rising in her cheeks. She pushed past him and he followed her into the hall. She looked toward the washstand, at the spilled water on the floor before it. She turned and went to the front room, rivulets pouring down the windows.
 
“Where’s Gracie?” she asked, almost to herself, lifting the curtains that Gracie liked to hide behind sometimes. She stood in the middle of the shadowed room, seeming to forget James was there. She went to the bottom of the stairs and called Gracie’s name, her voice ringing in the emptiness. When she started up James took her arm. She whirled on him. “Let me go,” she said.
 
He went up to the bedroom close on her heels. “I ain’t done talking to you,” he said. She knelt to look under the maple bed as if she hadn’t heard him, tossing the hem of their quilt out of her way. He had thought he knew what she was doing, avoiding the argument they should have had a long time ago. But then she raised up and looked him in the eye. Stormy light from the window shone on her face and the cabbage roses of the wallpaper. She was white, now, with fear.
 
“Lord, Annie Clyde,” James said. “What’s got into you?” She pushed past him again and stumbled down the stairs. “Slow down,” he hollered after her. “Before you break your neck. She can’t be too far.” But he felt the first inkling of worry himself. If Gracie had gone outside, she was caught in the storm. He followed Annie Clyde back through the front room and out the door. He paused on the porch to shove his feet into his boots, not bothering to tie them, then hurried to catch up with her. Together they moved through the yard, through the sheeting rain that was plastering their hair to their skulls, running into their mouths and filling their ears. When there was no sign of Gracie they ran around the side of the house, puddles splashing up their legs. As they reached the elm shading the barn lot Annie Clyde staggered to a stop. The chain was still wrapped around the base of the trunk but Rusty was gone. She turned to James with wide eyes. He knew what she was thinking. Someone had let the dog loose. Gracie couldn’t unfasten the hasp on the chain by herself. They ran on to the barn where Gracie liked to play sometimes and stood panting in the opening, water pouring from the eaves. James was certain she would be there. There had been moments of panic before when she was only hiding from them in the box wagon or the corncrib. But there was nothing in the barn besides the smell of old saddle leather.
 
After that, without even having to speak, Annie Clyde and James split up. She headed across the hayfield while he went back around the side of the house. He whistled for Rusty under the porch, checked the privy and the hog pen. Everywhere he looked, he expected to find Gracie. He couldn’t grasp what was happening. Only minutes ago he had been in the kitchen pleading with his wife. He was thinking how foolish he would feel later, after Gracie came out of her hiding place, when Annie Clyde called his name. It was a strangled scream, loud enough to be heard over the downpour. James ran out to the hayfield, his breath coming in wheezing huffs. Through the weeds he saw the dark top of Annie Clyde’s hair. She was on her knees under the apple tree. He was sure then that Gracie had fallen out of the swing and hit her head. He was sure that he would find Annie Clyde kneeling over their little girl. He was prepared to gather Gracie into his arms and run with her to the truck, praying the road to the doctor’s office in Whitehall County would be passable. But when he reached the tree Annie Clyde hovered over nothing it seemed, on her hands and knees among the puddles under the lowest boughs, where there wasn’t enough light for grass to grow. “What?” James shouted at her. “What is it?” She turned her face up to him, drenched hair in strings, shuddering in the cold rain. “Amos,” she said. “What are you talking about?” he asked, sinking down beside her. Then he saw it. There in the mud, surrounded by leaves and filled with water, was a single long footprint.
Amy Greene

About Amy Greene

Amy Greene - Long Man

Photo © Adam Greene

Amy Greene was born and raised in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children.
Praise

Praise

“Greene even-handedly renders a lost and mostly forgotten world to perfection in Long Man. It’s midsummer 1936, and in the bucolic Tennessee town of Yuneetah, FDR is a pretty unpopular president. Through his federal programs, geared to revive the economy and bring electricity to the region, locals are being bought out or relocated. [But] not everyone is going quietly into that good night. Annie Clyde Dodson and her folks have labored for generations on a hilltop farm, and it’s her dream to introduce her daughter to a natural world the author memorably renders as a New World Eden . . . Caught up in this drama are several colorful figures, all with troubled pasts, buried secrets being brought to the surface like graves uncovered by the enveloping waters.” —Dan Dervin, Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star

“Greene was immediately hailed as a new voice in Southern literature when she published Bloodroot, her first novel. In Long Man, she finds a way to embrace both the beauty and the intrinsic ferocity of small-town Appalachia as she returns to [its] hills, this time with a look at people who don’t want to leave, despite outside threats . . . She has written a vibrant novel, gripping in its depiction of what has been forgotten. Be sure to put some time aside. Long Man is spellbinding as it chronicles endings and beginnings with the hardscrabble poetry of the way of life it depicts.” —Steven Whitton, The Anniston Star

“Gorgeous . . . A novel about passion, mystery and loss . . . A panorama of a people and way of life pressed upon by progress. Strong women [are] key to the plot and soul. The book is also about evocative writing. It’s pungent, and never lazy. It can make a reader nostalgic for a place she’s never known . . . A virtually perfect blend of lyrical writing and page-turning plot. This book gives me hope for the future of the literary novel. Beautiful.” —Karen Sandstrom, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Aching, passionate, vivid . . . Greene seems ideally suited to tell this story, to take a slice of Appalachian history and render it as literature. She has the necessary gifts and knows these characters well, inside and out . . . The plot is simple but rich, and provides great suspense. Long Man carries the weight of tragedy, but in Greene’s hands it does not feel excessively tragic . . . Powerful.” —Daniel Woodrell, The New York Times Book Review

“The plot of Long Man—the search for a missing girl—is compelling. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to view the novel as simply a cinematic race against the clock. Greene has crafted a story that forces us to examine our relationship with nature, our understanding of community and, significantly, of social class. The residents of Yuneetah are impoverished and poorly educated. Their daily lives are simple and hardworking. In other words, they are just the kind of people our culture casts aside. This novel, written during the years of a more recent economic crisis, lends this Depression-era story a moral and ethical vibrancy that we should all pay attention to.” —Jeffrey Condran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“An unusually poetic literary thriller—an Appalachian version of The World Without Us. Greene focuses this intense novel on one mother who has refused to move [from] her 40 acres. That futile devotion to a hallowed place and a primitive way of life provides the story’s mournful base melody . . . But soon that fear of loss is submerged in a much deeper one: all the energy Annie put into saving her farm immediately triples into finding her daughter. In these searing pages, it’s impossible not to feel the anguish in this mother’s rage . . . As the rain falls and the river rises, the potential here for melodrama is high. But Greene is too fine a writer for that. As she works in the stylistic territory of Bonnie Jo Campbell and Ron Rash, her sentences seem to rise up from the soil of this harsh, beautiful land. She gives voice to alluring characters, [and to] the aching desires of unsophisticated people who possess a complex, profound understanding of themselves and their doomed way of life. An engrossing blend of raw tension and gorgeous reflection.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Set in 1936 as the Tennessee Valley Authority floods a mountain valley to bring electricity to the region, a young mother must confront leaving the place she knows and an uncertain future as her family land slips beneath the new lake. When her 3-year-old daughter goes missing, a divided community must come together and race the rising waters to find the child before it’s too late. Greene is regarded as one of the best young chroniclers of contemporary Appalachia . . . Long Man dramatizes historical events that are still controversial today and raises issues that will resonate strongly with contemporary mountain communities.” —Rich Rennicks, Mountain Xpress
 
Long Man reads like a painting—the kind that unravels from a scroll, with a landscape that moves through space and time . . . Greene masterfully captures the stories of [Yuneetah’s] holdouts, but even in this desolate setting, there is still beauty that Greene, born and raised in East Tennessee, evokes with the simplest strokes . . . Her prose is sinuous, but clear, and completely devastating.” —Anna Lee, The Greenville News
 
“An instant classic . . . A tour de force of time and place, people and culture . . . Long Man is a visceral novel that evokes a sense of time and place and of the people who both define and are defined by that setting. Beautifully written in spare prose nevertheless creating a richly textured narrative that lingers in the mind long after the last page is turned.” —D. R. Meredith, New York Journal of Books
 
“An eloquent and powerful historical novel that explores timeless themes of greed and displacement.” —Largehearted Boy
 
“Unemployment and rising water levels get even worse in Depression-era Tennessee. Greene sets her novel during three days of the summer of 1936, as the government plans to dam the state’s Long Man River, bringing jobs and electricity to the region but also flooding the tiny town of Yuneetah. Just when the town’s evacuating residents think they’ve hit rock bottom, a 3-year-old child disappears. A tense tale of the sacrifices people make in the name of progress.” —Billy Heller, New York Post
 
“Richly told . . . As the crisis plays out, the complex web of feeling among the characters is revealed—a mix of desire, grief, unexpressed love, and longstanding resentment, all set against a collective grief created by the looming man-made apocalypse. The story is genuinely thrilling, full of tension and unexpected turns, but the true power of Long Man lies in Greene’s striking depictions of people and place. The characters—old wise woman, grotesque outcast, strong-willed farm wife, kindly sheriff—are types familiar from countless stories of the rural South, but in Greene’s hands they become passionate, vulnerable human beings buffeted by powers they can’t hope to oppose, much less defeat. Greene’s gift for conveying a sense of the living environment these people inhabit—an environment that has utterly shaped them and that is soon to be erased forever—gives the story vibrant life. There’s nothing abstract about the grief here. The characters are mourning the flesh and blood of their mother ground. Long Man is ultimately a story about the powerful robbing the powerless of something precious, but Greene’s approach is not sentimental . . . The novel grapples with real questions about our relationship to nature and the price of progress, even as it delivers a story as touching and timeless as a folk tale.” —Maria Browning, Chapter16

“Taut, shimmering, dramatic . . . A realistic, historically accurate portrait of a doomed community during the summer of 1936—a story about a land grab of epic proportions [and] a handful of characters facing the end of their 150-year-old way of life . . . But the real story here is the clash between tradition and the sweeping changes that promise a better life. The old ways, Greene tells us, can be both comfort and trap, curse or blessing, and she looks at both sides with sensitivity and understanding . . . In language as unadorned and lovely as a country quilt, Greene invites the reader deeply into the seclusion of the valley and the mountains above. A remarkable love letter to a forgotten time and place . . . Luminous.” —Gina Webb, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 
“This story of love, loyalty, and often-complex relationships had us hooked from the first page to the last.” —Patricia Shannon, Southern Living

“Haunting . . . Long Man revisits blue-collar Appalachia with the same lyricism Greene brought to her magnificent first novel, Bloodroot . . . With searing eloquence, she seems to channel the frustrations of generations of rural poor in this stark indictment of a government hell-bent on destroying a long-standing community. Her stunning insight into a proud and insular people is voiced with cold clarity and burning anger.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

“Exquisite . . . Greene’s prose is as mesmerizing as the story she weaves. Readers will never forget this vividly drawn landscape, the journeys of those who hold tight to this remarkable place in America even as it disappears before their eyes. Long Man is a novel about redemption and resurrection and love in all its forms. Its breathtaking suspense and images will haunt me forever.” —Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
 
“Harrowing, riveting . . . The Tennessee Valley Authority was designed to help modernize the state during the Great Depression, but [it] only spells destruction for the town of Yuneetah. Greene’s excellent second novel focuses on the holdouts who refuse to leave, chief among them a husband and wife [whose] 3-year-old daughter goes missing. The lead suspect in her disappearance is a one-eyed Yuneetah native who’s spent much of his life as a drifter connected to violent protests against [the] government. Greene’s [prose] is sinuous and tonally mythic; Gracie’s disappearance, alongside Amos’ cat-and-mouse game with authorities, gives the novel a welcome propulsion. Long Man fully inhabits the ironies inherent in destroying a place in the name of progress . . . A smart and moody historical novel that evokes the best widescreen Southern literature.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Unforgettable. Like a classical myth, Greene’s second novel, set in the summer of 1936, transforms a period of cataclysmic history into a gorgeous, tragic tale filled with heroes and heroines . . . Greene’s enormous talent animates the voices and landscape of East Tennessee so vividly, and creates such exquisite tension, that the reader is left devastated.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Equal parts mystery, family saga and backwoods romance, Long Man captures the collision of hardscrabble folk with the unstoppable modern world. Amy Greene’s novel of the Tennessee Valley Authority has a little bit of everything, and is always rich and absorbing.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying and Emily, Alone

“A gem. Long Man is so palpably real that I feel I’ve spent the last few days actually living in Greene’s corner of Depression-era Tennessee. Only a handful of writers can bring a place to life with this much texture, and bring characters to life in such a visceral manner. These people and this place will live on in my imagination for the rest of my life. Greene is a special writer, and Long Man is a special book—a beautiful piece of work. How I long for more novels like hers.” —Steve Yarbrough, author of Prisoners of War and The Realm of Last Chances
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and other material that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Long Man, a work of historical fiction from one of East Tennessee’s most authoritative writers, Amy Greene.

About the Guide

How would you choose between your past and your future? This is the question coursing through Amy Greene’s dazzling second novel, Long Man. It is 1936, when America has fallen deep into the valley of the Great Depression. Across the country, families of all backgrounds are suffering, but the livelihoods of those in the South and West—where weather and other forces have taken their toll on the land and its people—are on the brink of devastation. The Dodson family—James, Annie Clyde, and their three-year-old daughter, Gracie—are one such family, who, nestled in the backwoods of East Tennessee, are faced with the decision to leave behind all they’ve known for a new life promised by the government. In just a few days, at the start of August, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will dam the river called Long Man, which runs through the town of Yuneetah: a project to power and modernize the region. But to do so will require flooding the woods, fields, and homes of Yuneetah, turning the waters against those they once nurtured.

The government may have good intentions, but the TVA is no match for Annie Clyde Dodson. A fiercely proud and independent spirit, Annie Clyde wants to ensure that her daughter will grow up and inherit the family’s land; she is dead set against evacuating Yuneetah, and she refuses to budge even as the deadline looms. That all changes three days before they must leave, when, in a powerful rainstorm, Gracie goes missing—bringing tensions between Annie Clyde and her husband about their life beyond Yuneetah, and the vengeful mission of a drifter named Amos, to the fore. Balancing the intimate domestic conflict of the Dodson family with an authentic rendering of the historical forces driving their story, Greene weaves a tale about the endurance of loyalty and the scars left by passions held secret for too long—and about the costs of so-called “progress” on a single community. And like her acclaimed, nationally bestselling debut Bloodroot, it is a love song inspired by its creator’s homeland in East Tennessee, sung with an ear for the region’s unique music—both the harmony and dissonance—that makes Yuneetah and its people formidable contemporary contributions to a rich southern literary legacy.

About the Author

Amy Greene is the author of the national best-seller Bloodroot. She was born and raised in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Discussion Guides

1. In the opening scene, Greene introduces us to Yuneetah and the TVA’s dam project through the point of view of Silver, who is unnamed and a self-proclaimed outsider. What does this perspective contribute to our expectations of what will happen to the town, to Silver’s niece and her child, and to nature? What does Silver’s framing narrative to the book as a whole tell us about how history is preserved?

2. Could a man other than someone like Sam Washburn have done a better job persuading Annie Clyde Dodson to evacuate? What makes Sam more or less suitable for this task, especially considering how the final events of the novel unfold?

3. “Something about her fierceness made her beautiful . . . she had the soul of [some]one much older,” Sam thought of Annie Clyde upon meeting her at her home (pp. 16–18). Discuss this paradoxical characteristic, noted by others in the novel as well, in terms of Annie Clyde’s role as mother, wife, daughter, and niece.

4. How does Greene inflect her descriptions of nature—from the humming cicadas and pine trees to the murky caves and ruddy clay of the earth—to tell the troubled history of the region’s landscape?

5. The title of the novel most clearly refers to the river that is about to flood Yuneetah. But what are some other interpretations of what—or who—Long Man is? Does it ever become a character in its own right? Is it mostly a source of good or harm, as it clearly was for James and his family?

6. When Amos hears about the TVA dam and arrives back in town after years of drifting, he “hope[s] at least one of them had held out against the power company” (p. 24). What do you make of the fact that Annie Clyde, who is his biggest enemy throughout the novel, is that very person? How are these two forceful individuals more similar than perhaps they are aware? Does this underlying connection change how you think of either of their morally ambiguous choices, or reflect in any way upon the people who love them?

7. What religious forces and beliefs are at play in Yuneetah? How does Beulah Kesterson exemplify the gray area between formal religion and a more nature-based belief system that is rich in East Tennessee?

8. We learn early on that “Amos liked children” (p. 31). Did this detail increase your suspicion of him as Gracie’s kidnapper?

9. From the bones buried in the soil to those about to be washed away, what does the land/nature reflect of the town’s ancestry?

10. Trace the connections and loyalties—both intact and broken—between the generations of female characters in the novel. How do these relationships between mothers and daughters propel the plot and affect women’s interactions with men, especially those in power?

11. What keeps James and Annie Clyde together besides Gracie’s disappearance? How would you describe the nature of their relationship and attraction to each other? Consider what James thinks when they are courting: “She had a mysteriousness that made him need to unravel her” (p. 74).

12. How does the love triangle between Amos, Silver, and Ellard Moody complicate the search for Gracie? Does Silver do the right thing in defending Amos’s innocence?

13. To what degree does Annie Clyde demonstrate her guilt and/or vulnerability in the novel?

14. Ellard thinks Yuneetah “had never been of much concern to outsiders” (p. 133). How does Greene establish the time period and economic/social circumstances of the Depression crippling the nation at large, while maintaining the insular focus on the town and these few days? What does Amos contribute to that context that another character might not be able to as effectively?

15. Consider the novel’s relationship to time. How is it depicted on large and small scales? What is the balance of the linear chronology of the present—the search for Gracie—with the larger nexus of the characters’ pasts and even futures as they are explored throughout?

16. What makes Gracie and her dog, Rusty, so close, including on a narrative level at the start of the August 2 section (p. 205)?

17. How is Amos, a man so unpredictable and itinerant, able to execute his complex, thoroughly contrived plan to blow up the dam? What are his larger motives? How do they compare to those of the TVA?

18. Is Annie Clyde defeated in the end? Which character gives the clearest sense of how she heals in the year after the dam?

19. What did you take away from the novel about the role of the government and its impact on real people’s lives, both during the Great Depression and today?

20. How are Annie Clyde’s and Yuneetah’s struggles to keep the land as it is similar to and different from the struggles of contemporary environmental issues, including fracking and flood/storm damage?

Suggested Readings

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Edwidge Danticat, Claire of the Sea Light; George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain; Peter Heller, The Dog Stars; Denis Johnson, Train Dreams; Ron Rash, Serena; Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping; James Scott, The Kept; Marisa Silver, Mary Coin; Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres; John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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