by David Rhodes


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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 In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571310682
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 05/05/2009
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 324,472
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Driftless 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 336 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
I read 67 pages of this 426 page book and gave up. I hate animals getting killed in a gory manner. This book was tedious and jumped around from scene to scene so much it was hard to keep up with the changes. It also time jumped. I did not care for this book at all. It is for adult readers. AD
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.