Amidst construction of a federal dam in rural Tennessee, Nathan, an engineer hiding from his past, meets Claire, a small-town housewife struggling to find her footing in the newly-electrified, job-hungry, post-Depression South.
As Nathan wrestles with the burdens of a secret guilt and tangled love, Claire struggles to balance motherhood and a newfound freedom that awakens ambitions and a sexuality she hadn't known she possessed. The arrival of electricity in the rural community, where prostitution and dog-fighting are commonplace, thrusts together modern and backcountry values. In an evocative feat of storytelling in the vein of Kent Haruf's Plainsong, and Ron Rash's Serena, Watershed delivers a gripping story of characters whose ambitions and yearnings threaten to overflow the banks of their time and place. As the townspeople embark on a biblical undertaking to harness elemental forces, Nathan and Claire are left to wonder what their lives will look like when the lights come on.
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About the Author
"Watershed is a novel about change in many forms--personal, technological, and societal--and it handles them all with aplomb. A quintessentially American story of invention and reinvention in hard times, it reveals Barr as a writer of uncommon grace, skill, and promise."--Doug Dorst, author of S (with JJ Abrams)
"Written with uncommon humanity and grace, Watershed is a powerful reminder of how necessary those qualities are in our own time. Mark Barr has an almost supernatural ability to make the past--both the physical and emotional realities of daily life--intimate and real. Watershed is like one of the great New Deal murals brought to passionate, striving life." --Kent Wascom, author of The New Inheritors
"Fluidly paced, unsettling yet graceful, Watershed is a riveting debut that never lets up. Barr packs these pages with incident and character and a deep emotional intelligence; this is one of those rare novels that hit you with such startling clarity that the events of the story feel like your own memories."--Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under
"A powerful debut...readers looking for vivid historicals full of emotional turmoil in the vein of Wallace Stegner will enjoy this impressive novel." --Publishers Weekly
"In Mark Barr's engrossing historical novel Watershed, personal and social changes lead to tension in a rural Tennessee town where a post-Depression federal dam project brings work, strangers, and electricity to the region.The dam's holdups raise the stakes of the story, and waiting to learn the characters' fates, which are wrapped up in the success of the project, makes this historical tale gripping."--Foreword Magazine