“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.”—The Wall Street Journal
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 life in small-town America.
“[Rhodes’s] finest work yet . . . Driftless is the best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years.”—Chicago Tribune
“Set in a rural Wisconsin town, the book 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.”—The New Yorker
“Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A welcome antidote to overheated urban fiction . . . A quiet novel of depth and simplicity.”—Kirkus Reviews
“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.”—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.
Thoughtful, creative word choices and descriptions make this a lovely read. It’s easy to identify with the characters and see in them others in your own circle of acquaintances. There is a perfect balance between dramatic tension, humor and redemptive acts in the book—very believable. I’ll read more from this author!
I do not have fancy words or analytical evaluation of this book. I can tell you it touched my heart deeply, that it caused me to think and evaluate where I am in both my physical life and my spiritual life. As a man who has walked in his own dark valley, his examination and revelation of the “everyday man and woman” reveals the depth of soul each of us contains. The Pastors eulogy will long find a place in my heart.