Go out onto your front porch and get comfortable on a glider or swing, take a long sip of sweet iced-tea, open this book, and fall, slowly, softly, into the southern upcountry. Feel the moist heat of summer, and the cool mountain breezes as you descend, gently, into the river valleys of the Appalachians. Let the words, dipped in a warm, honeyed drawl, flow over your senses as the real world disappears.
In school they teach us, with no small amount of pride, about the government programs instituted by FDR in order to help the country climb out of the Great Depression. The New Deal. An alphabet soup of new government agencies. The WPA, the RA, the REA, the WPA, the CCC, the NYA, the TVA, etc. We learn of civic improvement projects like building roads and spreading electricity to rural areas. They don’t tell you about the people who were displaced by all of this activity. Or about the forests that were destroyed by axe or by water. Woodlands filled with wildlife and whole towns swallowed by man-made lakes with little care for planet or person or anything else besides progress.
In Long Man, Amy Greene tells us about a town in the mountains of eastern Tennessee that will soon be underwater due to a dam built to create electricity. She talks about the long struggle between the townsfolk and the water, river and rain. Centuries of crippling drought and catastrophic floods have worn the people of Yuneetah down to the bone. When the power company comes, building their dam and “helping” people relocate, a lot of the town’s residents are more than happy to leave, but others are part of these mountains, and refuse to go, until tragedy strikes and they realize what is really important.
I loved this book, can’t ya tell? Long Man just sucks you right in. It was wonderfully engrossing, transporting me to the ancient mountains of Tennessee during the summer of 1936, immersing me so that I had to wade back to the surface and blink to bring myself back to the world around me.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars