David Rhodes, 1946-

Book - 2008

Words, Wisconsin, an anonymous town of only a few hundred people. But under its sleepy surface, life rages. Cora and Graham guard their dairy farm, and family, from the wicked schemes of their milk co-op. Lifelong paraplegic Olivia suddenly starts to walk, only to find herself crippled by her fury toward her sister and caretaker, Violet. Recently retired Rusty finds a cougar living in his haymow, dredging up haunting childhood memories. Winifred becomes pastor of the Friends church and stumbles on enlightenment in a very unlikely place. And July Montgomery, both private and gregarious, instigates a series of events that threatens the town's solitude and doggedly suspicious ways.

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Minneapolis, Minn. : Milkweed Editions 2008.
Main Author
David Rhodes, 1946- (-)
1st ed
Online Access
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Physical Description
429 p. ; 23 cm
"Milkweed national fiction prize"--Jacket.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

*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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

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, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

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 possibility of 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.