"They had been told their sacrifice was for the public good. They were never told how much they would miss it, or for how long."
Drowned Town explores the multigenerational impact caused by the loss of home and illuminates the joys and sorrows of a group of people bound together by western Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes and the lakes that lie on either side of it. The linked stories are rooted in a landscape forever altered by the mid-twentieth-century impoundment of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers and the seizing of property under the power of eminent domain to create a national recreation area on the narrow strip of land between the lakes. The massive federal land and water projects completed in quick succession were designed to serve the public interest by providing hydroelectric power, flood control, and economic progress for the region—at great sacrifice for those who gave up their homes, livelihoods, towns, and history.
The narrative follows two women whose lives are shaped by their friendship and connection to the place, and their stories go back and forth in time to show how the creation of the lakes both healed and hurt the people connected to them. In the process, the stories emphasize the importance of sisterhood and family, both blood and created, and how we cannot separate ourselves from our places in the world.
1. Dry Ground 2. View from Within 3. Weekend Visitor 4. For What It's Worth 5. Wedding Chapel 6. Drift 7. Drowned Town 8. Unmoored 9. Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music 10. Across the Creek 11. Signs 12. Refresher Course 13. Thanksgiving 14. Remodel 15. Watershed 16. Mint Springs Acknowledgments
Jayne Moore Waldrop, a western Kentucky native, is the author of Retracing My Steps, a finalist in the 2018 New Women's Voices Chapbook Contest, and Pandemic Lent: A Season in Poems. Waldrop's work has appeared in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Still: The Journal, Appalachian Review, New Madrid Review, Deep South Magazine, New Limestone Review, Women Speak, and other literary journals. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
Selected as one of "The Best Southern Books of October 2021" by Southern Review of Books
Recipient of the Silver Award in Fiction - 2021 Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book Award
Selected by the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) as one of the featured titles in the 2022 Great Group Reads list
Drowned Town is a tender, touching book about a thoroughly urbanized and cynical Louisville attorney shedding her prejudices about country life and ways to find love amid the watery landscapes of western Kentucky. As a backdrop for the developing romance, Jayne Moore Waldrop offers a tender portrait of women's friendship, and poignantly evokes the countryside and towns before their flooding by the great TVA lakes.
~Fenton Johnson,author of The Man Who Loved Birds
In graceful prose, dotted with zingers and surprises, Jayne Moore Waldrop weaves a modern story of reconciliation and hope around this heartbreaking history. I'm impressed by her undaunted plunge into the subject and the compelling fiction she comes up with.
~Bobbie Ann Mason, author of Dear Ann
Through a counterpoint of interwoven narratives, Jayne Moore Waldrop has given us a vivid portrait of a particular place – far western Kentucky – over a period of half a century. Drowned Town is a story of loss and hope, of family and community, set on a lake and in the Land Between the Lakes, taking us from homesteads, to penitentiary, to lakeside mansion, and the affections and allegiances that transcend wrenching change. You will not forget these people, their dislocations, loyalties, love of land, love of home, sustaining love.
~Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek
There is a fierce current of remembrance that pulses within these stories, which will not allow a Cumberland River community to be erased by water or time. Jayne Moore Waldrop is a very talented writer and in Drowned Town she vividly renders the human cost of what those in power call progress.
The novel's shifts between characters and time periods, from the beginning of the dam project to a contemporary moment, create a swirling, circular pacing that reflects the collapsed history of those who straddle the land's past and present. Once all evidence of human habitation is bulldozed to make way for the lake and recreation area, what the novel Drowned Town memorializes is a landscape in which, for successive generations, beauty is 'intertwined with loss and sorrow.'
With the deft hand of a water colorist, she explores the notion of home, drawing insights from her family's experience of leaving Pike County to relocate to western Kentucky before she was born.
~Northern Kentucky Tribune
As with the shifting Kentuckian landscape, Drowned Town treats its audience to the ebbing and flowing of emotions that come with forging and embodying a sense of identity through place. Like A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers and The Big Empty, Waldrop's ode to an America of yore doesn't shy away from depicting how melancholy can make nostalgic folks prone to being out of touch with reality. But as the moments of levity and environmental observation demonstrate, the book also never loses sight of the joys of inhabiting a land that feels like 'a thin place that more closely connected heaven to earth, water to land, past to present.'
~Southern Review of Books
Poet Jayne Moore Waldrop's first full-length collection of short fiction, Drowned Town, explores themes of dislocation and homecoming via the Land Between the Lakes, a current-day recreational area in southwestern Kentucky.... The collection includes a panoply of interesting characters and narratives. Many of these narratives are steeped in a feminist sensibility, allowing readers to perceive events through the eyes of the marginalized. Central to all of the stories is Waldrop's portrayal of the land, which she encapsulates in poetic descriptions and well-drawn characters.
~Good River Review
In her novel, Waldrop explores many themes, such as love, loss, sisterhood, and the exhausting search for self-worth. But woven throughout the poignant narrative is the notion of change (sometimes unwanted, sometimes desperately needed) and the appreciation of the factors that make a place a home.
~Jon Sokol Blog
A deftly crafted and impressively original novel that pays meticulous attention to the accuracy of historical detail, Drowned Town is a thought-provoking and emotionally memorable read from cover to cover.