Hub City Press to publish debut novel from Arkansas author Mark Barr
Set in 1937 in rural Tennessee, with the construction of a monumental dam serving as background—a cinematically biblical effort to harness elemental forces and bring power to the people—Watershed delivers a gripping story of characters whose ambitions and yearnings threaten to overflow the banks of their time and place.
Nathan, an engineer hiding from his past, and Claire, a small-town housewife, struggle to find their 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 violence, prostitution, and dog-fighting are commonplace—thrusts together the federal and local worlds, in an evocative feat of storytelling in the vein of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, and Ron Rash’s Serena.
Mark Barr has been awarded fellowships from Blue Mountain Center, I-Park Artists¹ Enclave, Jentel Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Millay Colony, and Yaddo, and holds and M.F.A from Texas State University. He lives with his wife and sons in Arkansas, where he develops software and bakes bread.
“Mark Barr’s vivid and heartfelt Watershed is the most engrossing and assured debut I’ve read in a long, long time. The building of the hydroelectric dam in 1937 Tennessee isn’t the backdrop in this riveting story—it drives everything. A hydroelectric dam engineer running from his past. A Tennessee housewife running toward a new life. You watch a countryside, a people, transformed. The dam truly brings so much more than electricity. Watershed will leave you charged and enlightened. Mark Barr is a powerhouse.
—Smith Henderson author of Fourth of July Creek
“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)