Lazy Sunday Book Review: David Rhodes, Driftless

The start of the new year is no better time to read Driftless by David Rhodes–it’s chock full of lively, wry characters and compelling, big stories of the inhabitants of rural Words, Wisconsin. Hey, you think it’s cold in west central Georgia? Wait till the part that takes place in a perfectly rendered blizzard that makes you grateful for the first balmy day in late February.

After 30 years and a motorcycle accident that left him parallelized from the chest down, the David Rhodes brings back his slightly mysterious, yet very likeable character July Montgomery from his 1975 novel Rock Island Line. The author has not been taking any time off–the stories teem with suspense and an optimistic, gritty approach to the travails and challenges of making a life in today’s out-of-the-way places. We meet a farmer and his wife who struggle with whether or not to blow the whistle on a milk cooperative that is ripping off area farmers, a tough wheelchair-bound old lady who refuses to lock herself into crippling dependence on her sister, a local songwriter who second guesses her big break, a new woman pastor who experiences a beautiful brush with faith by the side of the road as she strives to move beyond her painful past. There are militiamen, a black cougar, dog fights and making a living from the land.

Even with all this, it’s not ponderously heavy–the book is leavened with dry humor and comedic passages that remind us to get back up and get some perspective. Surely, this must ring genuine when considering David Rhodes’ life trajectory. He understands human frailty, making mistakes, and forgiveness. For readers who are familiar with the power of the rural landscape and the intertwined relationships found in small places, this book is sure to please. —Review By Chris Curry, A Novel Experience owner

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