Driftless

Driftless

3.7 329
by David Rhodes
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

When David Rhodes' first three novels were published in the mid-seventies, he was acclaimed as "one of the best eyes in recent fiction" (John Gardner), and compared favorably to Sherwood Anderson. In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades. With Driftless, Rhodes returns to the midwestern

Overview

When David Rhodes' first three novels were published in the mid-seventies, he was acclaimed as "one of the best eyes in recent fiction" (John Gardner), and compared favorably to Sherwood Anderson. In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades. With Driftless, Rhodes returns to the midwestern landscape he knows so well, offering a fascinating and entirely unsentimental portrait of a town apparently left behind by the march of time. Home to a few hundred people yet absent from state maps, Words, Wisconsin, comes richly to life by way of an extraordinary cast of characters. Among them, a middle-aged couple guards the family farm from the mendacious schemes of their milk co-operative; a lifelong paraplegic suddenly regains the use of her legs, only to find herself crippled by fury at her sister and caretaker; a woman of conflicting impulses and pastor of the local Friends church stumbles upon an enlightenment she never expected; a cantankerous retiree discovers a cougar living in his haymow, haunting him like a childhood memory; and a former drifter forever alters the ties that bind a community together. At once intimate and funny, wise and generous, Driftless is an unforgettable story of contemporary life in rural America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

After a 30-year absence from publishing due to a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed, Rhodes is back with a novel featuring July Montgomery, the hero of his 1975 novel, Rock Island Line, which movingly involves him with the fates of several characters who live in the small town of Words, Wis. Through July, we meet Olivia Brasso, an invalid who loses her family's savings at a casino; parolee Wade Armbuster, who befriends Olivia after she is mugged; Winifred Smith, Olivia's new pastor; Jacob Helm, a widower who finds himself falling in love with Winnie; Gail Shotwell, a local musician who has an unusual reaction when her idol offers to record one of her songs; and Gail's brother, Grahm, and his wife, Cora, who blow the whistle on the milk cooperative that has been cheating them and other farmers. It takes a while for all these stories to kick in, but once they do, Rhodes shows he still knows how to keep readers riveted. Add a blizzard, a marauding cougar and some rabble-rousing militiamen, and the result is a novel that is as affecting as it is pleasantly overstuffed. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, Rhodes's first novel in over 30 years is set in a rural area of Wisconsin so remote and forgotten that it's left off the map. Most of the residents have chosen to be isolated from the world around them and one another. Nevertheless, their concerns-the meaning of spirituality, family, love, and desire-are global and universal. The half-dozen or so subplots include an elderly man overcoming his mistrust of the area's recent Amish immigrants, a farm couple battling corporate and government corruption, and a sheltered disabled woman whose life changes radically. In the end, it eventually becomes clear that July Montgomery, a loner with a secretive past, is the glue that holds the community together. The characters and their struggles come vibrantly alive, though Rhodes's didactic authorial voice at times overwhelms the narrative and seeps into the dialog. Recommended for regional and larger public libraries.
—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman

Kirkus Reviews
Rhodes's first novel in more than 30 years (Rock Island Line, 1975, etc.) provides a welcome antidote to overheated urban fiction. When folks have a drink in Words, Wis., it's generally coffee or hot water with lemon that they turn to. When they cuss, they say "drat." Life is slow and rural; it's farm country, and locals care about the rhythms of the seasons, their roots in the community and each other. All is not well, however, when the milk cooperative tries to increase its profit margins at the expense of honest farmers. That doesn't sit well with Grahm and Cora Shotwell, who try to expose the cooperative's machinations. This is but one episode among many, however, in a deliberately episodic novel. The lack of a central narrative thread makes it possible for Rhodes to introduce us in stages to the community's major players. We make the acquaintance of newly-minted pastor Winifred Smith, whose cryptic spiritual epiphany starts to inform every aspect of her life; of July Montgomery, who mysteriously showed up some 20 years ago and whose quiet devotion to farming conceals a tragic past; of Grahm's sister Gail, who works in the local plastics factory and plays bass in a band; and of sisters Violet and Olivia Brasso, the latter an 89-pound invalid who's emotionally rescued by roughneck Wade Armbuster through the unlikely medium of dogfighting. Things happen in Words, but in a decidedly slow way. Cora gets fired from her job, Winifred tries to explain the nature of her spiritual awakening, curmudgeonly Rusty Smith hires some Amish carpenters to finish up some work on his home. Most importantly, people learn to overcome their reticence, occasionally even opening themselves to the possibilityof falling in love. Olivia recognizes the essential stability of the community by declaring that "new is only old rearranged."A quiet novel of depth and simplicity.
From the Publisher

Accolades for Driftless:
Outstanding Achievement Award, Wisconsin Library Association’s Literary Award Committee
California Literary Review Best Book
Booklist starred review and Editor’s Choice
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor’s Regional Literary Award
All Iowa Reads selection, State Library of Iowa’s Center for the Book
Midwestern Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA) Honor Award
Christian Science Monitor top ten books of the year

“Now, after what had to have been years of effort beyond the usual struggle of trying to make a good novel, we get [Rhodes’s] fourth, and, I have to shout it out, finest book yet. Driftless is the best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years.”
—Chicago Tribune

“A profound and enduring paean to rural America. Radiant in its prose and deep in its quiet understanding of human needs.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Driftless is a fast-moving story about small town life with characters that seem to have walked off the pages of Edgar Lee Masters’s ‘Spoon River Anthology.’”
—Wall Street Journal

“Comprised of a large number of short chapters, the novel opens with a prologue reminiscent of Steinbeck’s beautiful tribute to the Salinas Valley in the opening of East of Eden, with a little touch of Michener’s prologue to his novel Hawaii. The book moves at a stately pace as it offers deep philosophy and meditative asides about life in Words, Wisconsin, in the Driftless zone, which is to say, about life on earth.”
—NPR, “All Things Considered”

“Few books have the power to transport the way Driftless does, and it’s Rhodes’ eye for detail that we have to thank for it.”
—Time Out Chicago

“A wry and generous book. Driftless shares a rhythm with the farming community it documents, and its reflective pace is well-suited to characters who are far more comfortable with hard work than words.”
—Christian Science Monitor, Best Novels of 2008

“A symphonic paean to the stillness that can be found in certain areas of the Midwest, The writing in Driftless is beautiful and surprising throughout, [and] it’s this poetic pointillism that originally made Rhodes famous.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Driftless] presents a series of portraits that resemble Edgar Lee Masters’s 'Spoon River Anthology' in their vividness and in the cumulative picture they create of village life. Each of these stories glimmers.”
—New Yorker

“Rhodes consciously avoids drama to deliver a portrait of a real rural America as singular, beautiful and foreign as anywhere else.”
—Philadelphia City Paper

“Rhodes shows he still knows how to keep readers riveted. As affecting as it is pleasantly overstuffed.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage.”
—Booklist, 2008 Editor’s Choice, starred review

“Though Driftless is a deeply contemporary tale—what it has to say about the way corporations treat small farmers is, for example, quite pressing—it also has the architectural complexity of the great 19th-century novels, but without the gimcrackery too often required to hold their stories together. It partakes as much of the moral universe of Magnolia as of Middlemarch. And it earns comparison to both.”
—Books & Culture

“Unique, funny, absorbing, at times frightening. A novel crafted by a real writer.”
—California Literary Review, Best Books of 2008

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781441721655
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
01/01/2010
Edition description:
Unabridged
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Related Subjects

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Accolades for Driftless:
Outstanding Achievement Award, Wisconsin Library Association’s Literary Award Committee California Literary Review Best Book
Booklist starred review and Editor’s Choice University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Chancellor’s Regional Literary Award All Iowa Reads selection, State Library of Iowa’s Center for the Book Midwestern Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA) Honor Award
Christian Science Monitor top ten books of the year

“Now, after what had to have been years of effort beyond the usual struggle of trying to make a good novel, we get [Rhodes’s] fourth, and, I have to shout it out, finest book yet. Driftless is the best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years.”
—Chicago Tribune

“A profound and enduring paean to rural America. Radiant in its prose and deep in its quiet understanding of human needs.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Driftless is a fast-moving story about small town life with characters that seem to have walked off the pages of Edgar Lee Masters’s ‘Spoon River Anthology.’”
—Wall Street Journal

“Comprised of a large number of short chapters, the novel opens with a prologue reminiscent of Steinbeck’s beautiful tribute to the Salinas Valley in the opening of East of Eden, with a little touch of Michener’s prologue to his novel Hawaii. The book moves at a stately pace as it offers deep philosophy and meditative asides about life in Words, Wisconsin, in the Driftless zone, which is to say, about life on earth.”
—NPR, “All Things Considered”

“Few books have the power to transport the way Driftless does, and it’s Rhodes’ eye for detail that we have to thank for it.”
—Time Out Chicago

“A wry and generous book. Driftless shares a rhythm with the farming community it documents, and its reflective pace is well-suited to characters who are far more comfortable with hard work than words.”
—Christian Science Monitor, Best Novels of 2008

“A symphonic paean to the stillness that can be found in certain areas of the Midwest, The writing in Driftless is beautiful and surprising throughout, [and] it’s this poetic pointillism that originally made Rhodes famous.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Driftless] presents a series of portraits that resemble Edgar Lee Masters’s 'Spoon River Anthology' in their vividness and in the cumulative picture they create of village life. Each of these stories glimmers.”
—New Yorker

“Rhodes consciously avoids drama to deliver a portrait of a real rural America as singular, beautiful and foreign as anywhere else.”
—Philadelphia City Paper

“Rhodes shows he still knows how to keep readers riveted. As affecting as it is pleasantly overstuffed.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage.”
—Booklist 2008 Editor’s Choice, starred review

“Though Driftless is a deeply contemporary tale—what it has to say about the way corporations treat small farmers is, for example, quite pressing—it also has the architectural complexity of the great 19th-century novels, but without the gimcrackery too often required to hold their stories together. It partakes as much of the moral universe of Magnolia as of Middlemarch. And it earns comparison to both.”
—Books & Culture

“Unique, funny, absorbing, at times frightening. A novel crafted by a real writer.”
—California Literary Review, Best Books of 2008

Meet the Author

DAVID RHODES received an MFA degree from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1971. He published three novels in rapid succession The Last Fair Deal Going Down, The Easter House, and Rock Island Line. In 1977 a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. He lives with is wife, Edna, in rural Wisconsin.

Lloyd James hails from the Midwest. He received his B.A. in theater from a small liberal-arts college in New Mexico. He acts in the theater when his schedule permits and spends much of his free time working in his garden. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Driftless 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 329 reviews.
smthereader More than 1 year ago
Wonderful use of language - reminds me of Wallace Stegner who with Steinbeck are my favorite authors. Great highly differentiated and believable characters and a twisty plot. I'm reading it for a second time to enjoy the language now that I know the plot and characters. It's that good. Just ordered it for my sister. Hope the earlier books (written 30 years ago) are even almost as good. (He was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed after his first three acclaimed novels.) This book has NOTHING to do with his paralysis or struggle back - pure fiction. Very pure.
Shan_Review More than 1 year ago
You'll drift into Words, Wisconsin and want to linger. Rhodes's writing feels like a soft blanket. You'll recognize yourself and/or your friends and family in his characters. Reminiscent of Steinbeck in his setting descriptions. It'll be a read and reread keeper. Enjoy.
Loiy More than 1 year ago
Being a retired Wisconsin farm wife, I found the settings and the stories most accurate and true to life. We were members of the NFO and my husband escaped alive from an accident similar to the one at the end. Excellent writing that holds one interest and attention to detail makes you feel as if you have know the characters all your life. I really enjoyed the book.
sBuxton More than 1 year ago
After reading this novel, I am convinced that I carry the genetic memory of grandparents (who left Gillingham WI for Madison many, many years ago). While I visit Hart's Hollow regularly, I am an outsider. An alien from "the big city". Despite my tenuous ties to the driftless area, this book haunted me... It describes "unincorporated Wisconsin" with eerie accuracy. Its description of the culture was both warmly familiar and oddly disturbing. It is one of those books that is unassuming while you read it, but it lives in your soul. Little bits float to the surface of your thoughts every so often. Just a tib-bit for you to chew on long after the book has been read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters, beautiful writing, this is a book I couldn't stop thinking about after it was over. Highly recommended!
Lady_Ann More than 1 year ago
If you're familiar with the driftless area of Wisconsin, this book is like finding the motherlode of morel mushrooms in the woods. I savored every word.
jpress1206 More than 1 year ago
I'm rating this book 5 stars to offset the dunce that rated it a 1 star because of the reviewer that wrote in all caps! Really folks....review the book....not the reviewer. Writing is their life and the way they make a living. Your 1 star and 3 star review kicked this author's rating down. Use your brains and think before you review.....BOTH of you! You are not reviewing Barnes and Noble...you are reviewing the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author's story alone makes this well worth the read. Not being schooled on his first three books, I'm assuming the guy was a literary genius in the 70s, which pulled me in immediately. I prefer books with substance over flash and trendiness, which much of BNs fiction selections have to a fault. It's niice to finally find real literature on a Friday as opposed to the usual mindless drivel I get. Perhaps BN is listening for a change. Have hope my friends, if your genre isn't here, it may soon be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and would reccomend it to anyone. I read it in short spurts and savored it like a good wine. Reads like poetry and I have saved it to read again. Ordered his other older books. Love the way he writes!!
wenvirly More than 1 year ago
A complex array of characters, interestingly intertwined, in a well described rural setting. Occasionally the characters' decisions or behavior stretch the imagination a bit, but in general one can identify with them and their struggles, emotional, spiritual, and economic. I actually got very drawn in, and finished the book in record time. The accident near the end might seem contrived to people with no experience with farming, but I have known 2 such accidents, so I'm sure they are not infrequent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this book yet, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I'm writing this to say to all the complainers, STOP! They give us a free book every Friday and there are almost 2 million free if you just search free. Other companies do not do this. I get the book every Friday and usually like it and have found some new authors and new genres. If you don't like it after you read it, delete it and write an honest review. But don't fuss before you even read the book. Thanks B&N and all the authors who spend their time to give enjoyment to those of us who LOVE to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is lyrical, poetic, deep and moving. The characters are very well developed and each of their individual stories is interwoven and connected. I couldn't put it down and will read more of this author. Thankyou B&N for a fabulous free fridays book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I got to the last pages of this novel I had to brace myself for the disappointment that was to follow my being finished with it. It is so beautifully written that I found myself thinking back to my college lit class days and imagining turning the beautiful phrasing into classroom discussions. Th story is frank and captivating, with characters that are easy to identify with. I only wish that I could read it again for the first time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I grew up in the rural south and have lived in the midwest with in-law relatives from the Driftless region for many years now. The characters are familiar and true to me, full and rich, and sometimes wise, sometimes painfully foolish. This book made me examine myself again and again. Packed with a wide variety of issues, it was worth the read. I'll be recommending this to my best friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book on Free Friday and thought it sounded interesting. I like books about hard working country folks and such. The book was good, but I give it only two stars because I wish it would have wrapped up the storyline for the other characters. How did the Shotwells law suit end up? What about Gail? Olivia? And several others. I thought I still had over 10 pages left when I read what was the last page. With over 400 pages, I was hoping for a better ending.
Suz684 More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing...I was not expecting something so intense from the description in the overview. The lives of the many characters overlap in ways that occur everyday, yet never realize the impact of such minor interactions. Rhodes has wonderfully intertwined these people in ways that happen everyday, but so often are taken for granted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fantastic! The characters actually sat at my kitchen table and shared a cup of coffee with me. The imagery is so unique painting pictures I'll remember forever.
Adawehl More than 1 year ago
Wonderful suspense & the stories of each in this community intertwined perfectly together. Would love to see this in film!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel was an intriguing snapshot into the lives of average Americans, yet it felt like each character was much more than average. Their individual lives and experiences came together to form a very enchanting story of love and loss. Each chapter felt like I was looking through a window into the private experiences we all have, and experiencing them along with the characters.  The plot was a bit slow at first, without direction. As the characters are introduced the plot begins to make more sense and I found that I was becoming attached to the characters. I definitely recommend this novel. David Rhodes is a great writer. He as a way of capturing life's ordinary moments and revealing what they mean on a grander scale of things. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book, especially if you like adjectives. I too am glad the free book was something with a little substance. What drives me crazy is; why do the books have SOOO many errors. Come on, why do ebooks have to be such poor quality?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love stories like this.
gdelbooks More than 1 year ago
Story of the inhabitants of Words, Wisconsin. Starts in the middle of the story, ends abruptly, no closure to story lines.
USCG_Mom More than 1 year ago
I got to approximately page 175. It was tedious, boring, drawn out, pointless. The characters seemed to intertwine but without a notebook alongside of me to keep track, you lose the point of who goes where with what. I didn't delete from my library because I do want to finish it... I hate leaving a page unturned. But this one is a struggle at best. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I'm just glad I got it on Free Book Friday. Had I paid for it, I would have been sorely disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DavidRhodes develops characters with sheer genius. You meet your own flaws with much more compassion as well as your fellow man. Rhodes is gifted in so many ways. Amazing insight into the human condition and he speaks with honest reflection about common everyday life. Rhodes gets it and is anything but driftless. This man runs deeper than your average bear. Exceptionally intelligent. Thank you for writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this wonderful book and hated to see it end. I want to go read all of his books now.  I was fortunate to be able to buy this when the Nook version was briefly on sale. Rhodes is a very gifted writer. Do yourself a favor and read this book!