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.
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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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 2008 Reed Business Information.
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