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Long Man: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 25, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Greene’s second novel revisits blue-collar Appalachia with the same haunting lyricism she brought to her magnificent first novel, Bloodroot (2010). In the summer of 1936, the Tennessee Valley Authority has determined to dam the river Long Man and flood the town of Yuneetah in eastern Tennessee in the name of progress. Just one day remains before the town will be flooded, and most of the citizens have been evacuated. But there are a handful of people who refuse to leave the land that has been in their familiesfor generations. Among them is Annie Clyde Dodson, who longs for her three-year-old daughter, Gracie, to grow up on her beautiful mountaintop farm. As a storm starts to rage, Gracie goes missing, and the sheriff, as well as Annie’s few remaining neighbors, must cover miles of wild country in search of the toddler. In addition, the mysterious Amos, an orphan who grew up in Yuneetah, has returned for one final act of vengeance. Greene, with searing eloquence, seems to channel the frustrations of generations of rural poor in this stark indictment of a soulless 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


“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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593436
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When we read, the images on the page will of necessity be referenced to our own experiences. So for me the images in this novel bounce off those of my maternal grandparents atop a small mountain, never having experienced electricity in their home and on their rock-filled farm until their eight surviving children, for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary, had a line strung up from the farmhouse nearest them, maybe a half mile away. My grandmother was noted for having her many grandchildren churn the butter—it’s hard!—as my grandfather was noted for reaching into his bee hives without protection and never having been stung.
This novel presents the duality of horrific weather and an FDR-era dam project taking away the livelihoods in the hardscrabble community of Yuneetah where, for example, toadstools grow on the floorboards of Beulah, the aged woman who is one of the few who will remain when the dammed waters will drown the town.
As is true with all of Annie Proulx’s fiction, this novel is set in the hardness of place. The reader becomes saturated with the near impossibility of being able to create a living in this community. The people are all uneducated but, in some cases, not totally ignorant.
Long Man is the river And it is this river which will provide the electricity for people who have never had any. Most of the community has left for Detroit—a rather ironic city given the context of what we know today about that city—but a few remain behind, creating an existential angst for people who are divided about whether to leave or not. And that decision has to be made soon, within days because the flood is about to occur. They have all been warned and re-warned.
This is a novel that I could not read at my usual rather rapid pace. The writing is just too good for me to have done so. However, I can understand why readers found this a drag. It moves very, very slowly. I enjoyed that experience. And do believe Amy Greene is one of our best American writers today.
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Format: Hardcover
Here in the US, we talk a lot about the notion of "the great American novel" -- what is it exactly, which books might we consider as such? One particular kind of great American novel sets vivid and compelling characters against difficult and perhaps impossible circumstances; John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH and the Depression, Norman Mailer's THE NAKED AND THE DEAD and World War 2, Karl Marlantes' MATTERHORN and Vietnam, Paul Harding's TINKERS and mortality and his ENON and the tragic death of a child.

Amy Greene's LONG MAN is such a novel. Set in the middle 1930s in the mountains of Greene's native eastern Tennessee, the book centers on the residents near a river that the US Government has dammed in order to bring electricity to the largely poor population through the Tennessee Valley Authority. The flooding that results will push them out of their homes and off their land -- homes that many of them have lived in for their entire lives, land that has been in some of the characters' families for many generations.

As the novel opens, most of the families have sold off their property eagerly, wanting to get out from under the burden of farming the bad soil in the mountains. Some have moved to other farms in adjacent areas and some have migrated north, to work in factories.

The novel centers on one family who has not yet departed: James Dodson, his wife Annie Clyde Dodson, and their three-year-old daughter, Grace.
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Format: Hardcover
I could barely breathe. A town full of history and memory slowly disappearing under a man made lake. A promise of progress simultaneously destroying and giving hope. That would have been enough. Facing the reality and understanding the sacrifices that depression-era families made for the dams was compelling enough. It is so hard to imagine that it really happened! Entire towns and family legacies submerged under water! But Amy Greene does it. She makes you see and feel a portion of history gone almost entirely undiscussed. Amidst this truly historical backdrop, the author imagines the most compelling of "what ifs". What if a 3 year old girl goes missing in the town days before the water covers the town? It was a frantic read from that point on! This was a gorgeous novel blanketed in Amy Greene's vivid prose. You are completely pulled in. For those of us that lived in this landscape, it is the best representation of our home. I cannot wait to see how this shapes the ideas of the rest of you, for whom these stories are totally foreign. I am so anxious for the next book already!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Marvelous tale of a culture and time where life was simple and hard. There is a lot of description which I normally do not
enjoy, but using my imagination to picture it, I was able to "get into" the scenes in the story and enjoy it all the more!
The subject of "progress" vs. "lives of those impacted by the progress" is always worth pondering, and this novel brought it
home through the character's lives. I really enjoyed this book:-)
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