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Driftless Paperback – May 5, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1571310682 ISBN-10: 1571310681

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Driftless + Jewelweed: A Novel + Rock Island Line
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Editorial Reviews

From 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* By the end of the darkly rhapsodic novel Rock Island Line (1975), July Montgomery has suffered enough tragedies for several cursed lifetimes even though he is only 22. His creator, on the other hand, was riding high as each of his three novels met with acclaim. But Rhodes was about to face his own season of loss. Now, in a triumphant return after 30 years (see the adjacent “Story behind the Story” for details), Rhodes picks up the thread of July’s life with deepened powers, writing not in shadow but in light. As for July, after two decades of drifting, he has finally found peace in the small town of Words, Wisconsin. Respected and cherished, he is the hub of this brimming novel, each spoke a suspenseful story line about the unexpectedly dramatic lives of the good people of Words. The compelling cast includes Graham, a farmer, and Cora, his whistleblower wife intent on exposing agribusiness corruption; Winifred, the high-strung pastor; and the incredible Brasso sisters: large, nurturing Violet and tiny, smart Olivia, who rules the book from her wheelchair. In vividly realized scenes involving family secrets, legal battles, gambling, and miracle cures, Rhodes illuminates the wisdom acquired through hard work, the ancient covenant of farming, and the balm of kindness. Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

"The Evening Chorus" by Helen Humphreys
From a writer of delicate and incandescent prose, "The Evening Chorus" offers a beautiful, spare examination of the natural world and the human heart. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571310681
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571310682
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Good story line; good character development.
Elizabeth A. Barron
Rhodes uses a deliberate, yet descriptive, writing style that matches the cadence of the setting that he presents.
Michael Lima
I really enjoyed reading this book and found it hard to put down.
Patricia Kramer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the small town of Words, Wisconsin, we find a group of people with complex and intertwined lives. July Montgomery is a drifter that arrived 20 years ago and has made a place for himself among the townsfolk. Violet and Ophelia are two sisters who need each other. One cannot walk, and the other needs to be needed. Grahm and Cora Shotwell are fighting Corporate America after uncovering a milk scandal. Gloria Shotwell is chasing her dream of being a musician. Jacob Helm grieves over his dead wife. Rusty and Maxine Smith need to learn a hard lesson in tolerance. Winnie Smith, the pastor, has an unearthly experience. All of the townspeople are haunted by their pasts in one way or another. When I first picked up this book, I was struck by the beauty of it. On the dust jacket we can see the town of Words, and after reading the book and looking at the front again, you can see what each of the characters sees in the town. It's a safe haven, an alternate universe, a work place, a prison.

I found myself investing a lot of emotion into this book. Once again I was trapped inside the pages and felt angry at the end when I was forced out. You become so close to the characters that they feel not only like family, but lifelong friends as well. You can touch each person's soul and know exactly where their hearts is and what thoughts fill their heads. You want to help them, scold them, hug them, and comfort them.

I was filled with every emotion while reading this book-ranging from joy to grief. I believe it has made me a better person. I'm looking at life differently, more open-minded and compassionate.

David Rhodes also wrote The Last Fair Deal Going Down, The Easter House, and Rock Island Line in the mid-seventies. I'm thankful he has reentered into the writing world. Hopefully the publication of this book signifies that there will be more in the future.

Armchair Interviews agrees.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ann M. Johnson on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I originally ordered this book after reading a Wall Street Journal article about it in September. After I had read page 22 of Driftless several times (and had already reread several other pages), not because I couldn't follow it but because I liked what it was saying and how it was saying it, I decided two things: this book would make a good present for all the readers on my Christmas list and it was going to take me a long time to read it! So I ordered extra copies and kept reading. Most good books I want to read quickly to find out what happens but this book is so good that I am reading it very slowly, for the same reason we eat great food very slowly, to make the enjoyment last!

This book really draws you into the interconnected lives of people of small town America. I moved from a small city to a large metropolitan area last year and was recently trying to explain to someone why I was still missing my former home. The central reason is because I felt safe and nurtured there. Not physically safe from crime but safe because of my emotional attachment to people. Everywhere I went I saw people I knew. When you drive to the grocery store in a small town people wave at you and you wave at them. I liked feeling connected to the human beings around me. I knew about their lives and they knew about mine and we cared about each other. Sure not everyone likes each other but you still feel for them and they for you because you know the good, bad and the ugly about each others lives. You know you have value in a small community and that's what you see in Driftless.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Miller on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. Lyrical, poetic, each chapter beautifully executed, each feeling like a self-contained short story in its own right. Rhodes is talented enough to make us care about -- and be interested in -- several characters at the same time. The characters inhabit a small town in Wisconsin. There is, arguably, one main character, July, who, in his own quiet and subtle manner, affects the lives of so many of the other inhabitants of the town. Rhodes' characters surprise us throughout the book. We make assumptions about them and realize how wrong we were. That quality, in and of itself, is what makes these characters so realistic. Rhodes beautifully reminds us of the trap we often fall in when we make incorrect assumptions about the people around us. Rhodes brings to life his fictional town as effectively as Steinbeck brought to life the communities of northern California.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lee S. Tesdell on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As the short chapters progress in Driftless, the characters, at first seemingly moving through life unconnected to each other, come closer and closer to each other: intricate stories involve a full range of personalities who can perhaps even be found in our own communities.

Predictably complex and certainly not your typical "everything ends up okay" story, David has done a great job of covering the political, social, and religious landscape with his cast of characters. In some ways David is representing his own life through this huge variety of characters: you have the music, you have the populism, the religion, the rebellion against authority, and you have the wheelchair. He needed this huge cast of characters in Driftless to tell the story of his community and his own place in it.

Driftless is an excellent read. For another shorter piece by David Rhodes read his December 25, 2008 "Wearing Feathers" in the New York Times opinion section.
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