Annie Clyde Dodson and her three-year-old daughter Gracie are among the last holdouts in a tiny town, standing in the way of progress in the Tennessee River Valley. Just a few days before the Long Man river is scheduled to wash Yuneetah off the map, Gracie disappears one stormy evening. Did she simply wander off into the rain, or was she taken—perhaps by the mysterious drifter who has returned to his hometown on the verge of its collapse?
Set against the backdrop of real-life historical events, Long Man is a searing portrait of a soon-to-be-scattered community brought together by change and crisis, and of one family facing a terrifying ticking clock.
About the Author
Amy Greene is the author of the national bestseller Bloodroot. She was born and raised in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children.
Read an 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.
Excerpted from "Long Man"
Copyright © 2015 Amy Greene.
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Reading Group Guide
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.
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?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Riveting! I listened to the audio version. The narrator, Gale Dickey, did an awesome job. Her accent was appropriate for the region and very convincing. Green did a great job of describing the life of the people in the region of the TVA and of the time period. She painted a vivid picture for the reader/listener, of the town and people. One of the best books I have read and I am not easily pleased.This is the first book I have read by Amy Green. Looking forward to enjoying more works by Amy Greene
I loved the writing of Amy Greene - she surely knows how to grasp a reader, and how to tell an intriguing story. My father was part Cherokee Indian (he actually looked like an Indian Chief), so I liked the history in this novel and reading some things about Cherokee Indians.I love the characters and the vivid descriptions that come alive, putting you right there with the cicadas, the apple tree, the countryside, and the suspense. Having been raised in a small town, I know what it is like to lose the place you loved when it slowly withers away to nothing. This story reminds us that material things come and go but love never fades. I know what it is like to search for a loved one who is so dear and the fear that grips our heart and soul. It isn’t a bad idea to spend a little time thinking about plain, everyday things that we might take for granted. Hug your children and relish the life you have... it can always change at a moment’s notice. I think it is great that the author lives in the beautiful Smoky Mountains with her husband and two children. I appreciate how she wrote a well-written novel that can pique someone’s curiosity and interest. I hope everyone picks up “Long Man” - I believe you will be charmed. Jeannie Walker (Award-Winning Author)
This was a very moving book about an Appalachian community and the effects of electrification. Entire towns full of people were relocated, and the towns flooded in the process. Amy Greene did a super job of character development. I felt like I knew the people of Yuneetah, who lived along the Long Man, which was the Native American name for the river. I was, however, disappointed in how the moving was portrayed. I know that it was difficult to move from areas where families had lived for many years. But I felt that Ms. Greene should have included info about how much the residents were compensated. It is true that they didn’t have a choice about moving. But they did have a choice about where to resettle, and many of the TVA-reloacted famlies were given thousands of dollars, which went a much longer way back then.In addition, I know from family stories, of how some families were very grateful for the electricity, which changed their own lives positively. I felt that these things should be included, for an accurate and fair story. I realize that fiction is just that, and not entirely factual; however, I think that stories should be more complete. I will now be reading a non-fiction book, to balance things out for me, personally.
Crafted with detail and emotion. Good work, sad details about how rough things can be and how you choose love or life.
I bought this book because I loved Bloodroot, but I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much. Good , compelling story, bogged way down with far too much detailed and repeated descriptions of the land and the river; it was a chore to finish it.
This book is full of page after page of detailed, poetic, evocative descriptions of the people and land in a remote Tennessee valley in the 1930s. The plot is pretty straightforward, but the multilayered characters and the wonderful descriptions give this book a wonderful complexity. That said, there are a LOT of descriptions and some seem a bit forced and overwrought. A worthwhile read about real people and real events.
easy to read, well written. The whole time I read this, I remembered the opening of Lake Monroe, between Bedford, IN and Bloomington, IN off of highway 37. Opened in the early 70's, I always wonder what's under the water, houses, farms, trees, cemeteries.. the people displaced. Very interesting to me and probably so many others in this area
Awesome story !!!longman