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Driftless Paperback – May 5, 2009
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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.
*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.
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The main character is July Montgomery who drifted into the small village of Words twenty years ago. Words is surrounded by farmland and is about twenty three miles from a good size city. July is a loner, his former life unknown, but his character ties the other characters together. He owns a farm, loves being a farmer, this is the only life for July. The others respect him and ask his opinion about different matters going on in their lives.
Two sisters, Violet and Olivia are as different as day and night. Violet is a caretaker, she needs being needed, she has taken care of others, outlived two husbands, no kids. Now she is Olivia's caretaker. Olivia is frail, in a wheelchair, looks much younger than her age. There is a great difference in the ages of the sisters. Violet is old enough to be Olivia's mother.
There are a few quirky characters in this book as there is in real life. Readers meet a militia group and a group of Amish among the many characters. The chapters are short and drift from a family group to a lone character, back and forth among the characters, but not hard to keep up with.
Jacob Helm has been widowed for five years. He grieves, he cannot get over his wife's death. Rusty Smith is badly needed work done on his house. His wife's relatives are coming for a visit. He is prejudiced against the Amish. July recommends this group so Rusty hires them. They do a good job. Gail Shotwell is none too fond of wearing clothes. She wears as little as she can when in her home embarrassing folks who come unannounced. Gail wants to get into music, is attractive, has a good voice, writes music, works a job, and plays and sings in a low class bar. Winifred Smith is a reverend and a pastor in the small and only church in Words. She feels being a pastor is the only way for her, but many times she feels she is not the one for religious life.
Grahm and Cora Shotwell have problems. Cora is a whistle blower. Cora, an accountant for the American Milk Corporation, finds her company is using adulterated milk, shorting the public, manipulating reports. Cora lets state government know. She is found out, loses her job, complaints are made about her family's dairy. This family is in trouble for Cora speaking out.
Characters make serious mistakes. Two children, sent home from school during a bad Wisconsin winter day, decide to play out in the snow and become lost in a blizzard. A very naive young woman wanting to make needed money, takes family funds, personal funds adding up to forty thousand dollars goes to a casino and loses every penny. There is this beautiful, black wildcat living in Rusty's barn making characters afraid.
The book is good, different philosophies about life from characters. This book won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize of 2008. This is how I heard about this book and decided to read it. The book cover is beautiful, bright orange and yellow, the colors of a hot summer noon or of the morning sun rising in the east to awaken the earth.