[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.
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
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. (Best Novels of 2008)
Christian Science Monitor
Rhodes consciously avoids drama to deliver a portrait of a real rural America as singular, beautiful and foreign as anywhere else.
Philadelphia City Paper
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.
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the Midwest, The writing in Driftless is beautiful and surprising throughout, [and] it’s this poetic pointillism that originally made Rhodes famous.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
A profound and enduring paean to rural America. Radiant in its prose and deep in its quiet understanding of human needs.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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
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.... 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.... [T]the result is a novel that is as affecting as it is pleasantly overstuffed.
[S]et 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—spirituality, family, love, and desire—are global and universal.... The characters and their struggles come vibrantly alive, though Rhodes's didactic authorial voice at times overwhelms the narrative and seeps into the dialog. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman
(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...Rhodes picks up the thread of July’s life with deepened powers.... Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage. —Donna Seaman
Rhodes's first novel in more than 30 years (Rock Island Line, 1975, etc.) provides a welcome antidote to overheated urban fiction.... 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.... A quiet novel of depth and simplicity.
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