Driftless

( 322 )

Overview


When David Rhodes's 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 In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.

Driftless heralds a triumphant return to the Midwestern landscape Rhodes knows so well, offering a fascinating and entirely unsentimental portrait of a town ...

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Overview


When David Rhodes's 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 In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.

Driftless heralds a triumphant return to the Midwestern landscape Rhodes knows so well, offering a fascinating and entirely unsentimental portrait of a town apparently left behind by the march of time. At once intimate and funny, wise and generous, Driftless is an unforgettable story of contemporary life in rural America.

The few hundred souls who inhabit Words, Wisconsin, are an extraordinary cast of characters. The middle-aged couple who zealously guards their farm from a scheming milk cooperative. The lifelong invalid, crippled by conflicting emotions about her sister. A cantankerous retiree, haunted by childhood memories after discovering a cougar in his haymow. The former drifter who forever alters the ties that bind a community. In his first novel in 30 years, David Rhodes offers a vivid and unforgettable look at how each life affects many.

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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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571310880
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 448

Meet the Author


David Rhodes grew up near Des Moines and graduated from Marlboro College in Vermont. After receiving an MFA in Writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1971, he published three novels in rapid succession to acclaim: The Last Fair Deal Going Down, The Easter House, and Rock Island Line. Thirty years later, Milkweed reissued these and published his newest novel, Driftless . He currently lives with his wife Edna in Wisconsin, and his next book, Jewelweed will be published in May 2013.
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Table of Contents


Table of Contents

Prologue
Chapter One, Thistlewaite County, 1977
Chapter Two, Violet and Olivia, 1997
Chapter Three Cora and Graham
Chapter Four Gail
Chapter Five Grief
Chapter Six Faith Keeps No Treasure
Chapter Seven Humped Floors
Chapter Eight Hot Milk
Chapter Nine Broken Things
Chapter Ten Hiring Help
Chapter Eleven A Gray Van
Chapter Twelve Epiphany
Chapter Thirteen Straight Flush
Chapter Fourteen Fire in the Field
Chapter Fifteen Snow
Chapter Sixteen Envy
Chapter Seventeen A New Song
Chapter Eighteen Remembered Love and Anger
Chapter Nineteen Fear
Chapter Twenty Reunion
Chapter Twenty-One The Meaning of Truth
Chapter Twenty-Two Fighting Dogs
Chapter Twenty-Three The Universal Acorn
Chapter Twenty-Four Insurgency
Chapter Twenty-Five New Love
Chapter Twenty-Six Spring
Chapter Twenty-Seven The Thief
Chapter Twenty-Eight Mushrooms
Chapter Twenty-Nine Breaking In
Chapter Thirty The River
Chapter Thirty-One Family
Chapter Thirty-Two Lawyers
Chapter Thirty-Three The County Fair
Chapter Thirty-Four Meeting at Snow Corners
Chapter Thirty-Five The Look of Death
Chapter Thirty-Six Finding July
Chapter Thirty-Seven Selling Land
Chapter Thirty-Eight Inside the Church
Chapter Thirty-Nine The Funeral
Chapter Forty Driftless

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 322 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(115)

4 Star

(87)

3 Star

(65)

2 Star

(22)

1 Star

(33)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 322 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 30, 2010

    Highly Recommended - I'm ordering his earlier books today - all 3 of them

    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.

    62 out of 65 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    A Keeper

    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.

    53 out of 56 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I'm rating this book 5 stars to offset the dunce that rated it a

    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.

    49 out of 78 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 15, 2009

    accurate settings

    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.

    43 out of 46 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2012

    A story that lives inside you long after it is read...

    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.

    39 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Just Because

    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.

    34 out of 58 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Thank you for making this available

    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.

    31 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Excellent literary fiction

    Great characters, beautiful writing, this is a book I couldn't stop thinking about after it was over. Highly recommended!

    30 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    highly recommend

    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.

    26 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    great book!

    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!!

    20 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2009

    Driftless

    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.

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Book!!!

    Loved this book and would recomend it to anyone. Reads like poetry.
    Will keep it to read again. Have ordered his older books.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Thank you for a free friday book  that is not a harlequin romanc

    Thank you for a free friday book  that is not a harlequin romance or for teens.

    9 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Beautiful story

    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.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Beautiful

    Love stories like this.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Quit complaining

    I swear every friday we have to deal with all you people complaining about a book becouse its always a romance i do recall there was a book called a place called armageddon that was free not to long ago and it was awsome i will read this book as well there are always good free books out there just take the time to look or if your to dumb to know how to find them go search then type in free fiction or sci fi but stop leavin crappy reviews it takes up space and isnt flattering

    6 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    To just because

    I haven't read thrs one yet but it i think it will be a good story,
    I appreciate the free books because I canot afford to buy a the books, I have read some that turned out to be great,

    Would you tell me how to delete. I would like ro remove some books that I have read,
    Thanks,

    Loves to read

    5 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    Started it...

    After reading quite a few chapters and not being at all interested in the characters' lives or where the "story" was going (was there even plot?), I stopped reading. Very slow, overly descriptive and just plain boring.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013

    Beautifully written, exceptional

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    Thought it was a good story line but it had so many characters y

    Thought it was a good story line but it had so many characters you had to really think who was who. I would liked it better had it not been so wordy. Describing scenery paragraph after paragraph got rather boring and I found myself skipping a lot of the book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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