My Review of Long Man by Amy Greene
Written by
Rebecca Elswick
June 2014
Written by
Rebecca Elswick
June 2014

As a teacher, I always look forward to my first summer read - the book I choose to kick off my summer vacation from school. This summer's choice is especially important because I decided, after much soul-searching, to retire from teaching, so I wanted a special book that would mark this milestone in my life. Well, I found it. Long Man by Amy Greene was the perfect choice.

Long Man is the story of what happens in the eastern Tennessee town of Yuneetah, during three days in the summer of 1936. An entire town and way of life for its inhabitants is about to be wiped out when the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) completes its project to dam the river Long Man and flood Yuneetah. There's just one problem, three year old Gracie Dodson disappears as the flood waters are rising faster than expected because of a raging storm.

Gracie Dodson is in harms way because her mother, Annie Clyde has refused to leave her 40 acre farm, a farm her ancestors have owned for generations. Even though Annie Clyde's husband wants to make a fresh start in Michigan where he believes they will have a better life, Annie Clyde is determined to remain a farmer. The land means everything to Annie Clyde. She believes a hard scrabble life toiling on the farm is better than the unknown.

As the deadline looms, a powerful storm hits. The storm is a metaphor on many levels - the fight between Annie Clyde and her husband; the fight between Annie Clyde and the TVA man; and the fight between Annie Clyde and Amos, the drifter she believes has taken her child. Perhaps the biggest storm in Annie Clyde's life is the loss of her land and the history it stands for.

The search for Gracie Dodson is as powerful as the force of the river Long Man. The pain Annie Clyde and her husband go through is palpable and heart-wrenching. The way the remaining townspeople, their families, and even the TVA man bond together to search for Gracie a testament to humanity. The possible loss of a child puts the flooding of this town into perspective, and  it reminds the reader of the sacrifices made by people like the Dodsons in the name of progress.

 The characters are vivid and tragic, each one having to deal with the loss of the only life they have ever known. This book is a testament to family and what it means to be connected to the land you love.

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