cover image Watershed


Mark Barr. Hub City, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-938235-59-7

Massive changes to Depression-era rural Tennessee have personal implications for two people starting over in Barr’s powerful debut. After Claire’s husband gives her a venereal disease, she moves out and recovers in her aunt Irma’s boardinghouse. The men at the boardinghouse work for a monumental federal dam project, bringing needed jobs and the promise of electricity to the area. One resident, Nathan, an engineer, uses an assumed name to obscure his culpability in a fire in Memphis that ruined his auspicious early career. Nathan frets about being discovered and takes on extra work to ingratiate himself to gruff head engineer Maufrais and fussy supervisor Fitzsimmons. Another lodger, Robert Hull, hires Claire to help him convince locals to sign up for the new electricity service. She agrees and gains a taste for working, but soon gives in to Hull’s seduction. As gossip about Claire and hints of Nathan’s past start appearing, both face difficult choices about moving forward. Barr displays impressive emotional depth in the depictions of Claire’s growing self-confidence and Nathan’s worrying. Readers looking for vivid historicals full of emotional turmoil in the vein of Wallace Stegner will enjoy this impressive novel. [em]Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi, Inc. (Oct.) [/em]