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3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  2,927 Ratings  ·  633 Reviews
Kindle Edition
Published (first published September 1st 2008)
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Sep 23, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Sally
Saw David Rhoades at the Wisconsin Book Festival. He said a several of wonderful things that helped my understanding of the book.

First the title is obviously about the interesting area of Wisconsin (& other states) where I live. But it is also about July finally stopping his drifting from the previous books and settling in Words. That sure makes me want to read "Rock Island Line".

Second "Words" is his comment on the post modern theory that fiction is about words and not the narrative. Reader
Dec 04, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was helping a woman in her 70's at the library figure out the next book her book club should read. She was making me laugh because she had read almost everything out there, and had some sort of critical one-liner for almost every popular book. Before she left, she told me, "Read Driftless by David Rhodes. You won't regret it, it's a gem." I believed her, and I agree with her.
The story behind the story is interesting; the author wrote critically acclaimed fiction in the 70's, winning many ficti
Nov 29, 2010 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is to be done when, in rural Wisconsin, a young farm family runs afoul of a corrupt and dangerous agribusiness corporation? Worry, too, about that cougar prowling the nearby farms, and the quirky woman preacher at the Quaker church having mystical visions in the woods, and the militia men skulking about the countryside with their machine guns.

Early on I fell in love with Driftless but eventually traded that for mere fondness. It was one of those rare first acquaintances with an author that
Feb 15, 2009 Colette rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I really, really, really wanted to like this book. Based on the summary, this by all means could have been my favorite book. Rising against agribusiness, esoteric theological musings, the Driftless Area? That's pretty much my life.

The characters were believable (for the most part), but the dialogue was not. The descriptive passages did nothing to bring the geography and the intricate nature of the coulees and ridges of southwest Wisconsin to life. The author suffers a tendency to over-describe p
Aug 31, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this book for my senior seminar in english studies and, in my (almost) professional opinion: HOLY CRAP. It's nothing short of amazing. The characters are real and easy to relate to. The fictional town of Words, Wisconsin is so like the town I grew up in, in the same state. Rhodes has the most beautiful way with words. I can't even properly describe this novel to you, you just have to read it.
Nov 25, 2014 Francisco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book tells the story of a handful of persons living in a small town in Wisconsin. Farmers, a musician, an invalid, a protestant pastor, a mechanic - their lives, their pasts and future are woven together as only the shared lives of a small community can be. There's no glorification of Midwest virtue here. Virtue definitely exists in small gestures of kindness and in subtle acts of daily courage, but it is not glorified. But neither is this a book intent on showing us the seedy sides of human ...more
Mar 02, 2010 Kathrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
4 1/2 stars, really. In the author interview at the back of this edition, Rhodes explains how the geography of place defines the characters, who they are, what they do, and what they believe. I live not too far from where this novel takes place, and though I feel I'd make lots of different choices from the ones his characters make, their choices are true. This is bible belt country, but this region also harbors many skeptics, and Rhodes invites both, all, views of faith -- in God, god, and human ...more
Patrick Andrews
Sep 27, 2009 Patrick Andrews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Rhodes named his book, Driftless, after the Driftless Area, which comprises Southwestern Wisconsin, Northwestern Illinois, Northeastern Iowa, and Southeastern Minnesota, and is bereft of sediment or glacial drift left behind as the last ice age’s glaciers receded into Canada. And both the novel’s topography and that of its characters reflect this.

The book portrays the forgotten, driftless (and fictitious) town of Words, Wisconsin, which has been left behind by all of the technological and
Mar 07, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
3/7/2011 3:25 PM


Driftless is Rhodes' first published novel in 30 years. He was paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident. He was able to write during this period but the works he submitted were not published. Rhodes and his wife live in Wonewoc, Juneau County, Wisconsin. The county's population is 783.

Driftless is an area in southwest Wisconsin not touched by Pleistocene era glaciers. Fictional Thistlewaite County covers the Driftless area and also
David Clark
The strength of this novel is in the author's development of a character menagerie. With compact and sparse prose Rhodes not only describes these folks but puts you inside their heads. I grew up close to the area Rhodes describes and his descriptions of these rural people, particularly their socially inept conversations, created vivid and specific images. While the plot lacks the drive and speed of a Conroy or Rowling best-seller, the patient reader is rewarded for staying the course.

As a write
Apr 09, 2015 Jules rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Driftless by David Rhodes very much, and found it to be similar to Olive Kitteridge in that the chapters are interwoven narrative threads following various characters in a small town – in this case, located in the driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin. I was a little worried that Driftless was going to be too wordy or boring, but the characters and their stories drew me in immediately. In fact, I think the introduction to the characters was a stronger literary accomplishment than ...more
Oct 24, 2011 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bravo to David Rhodes! It has been a long time since I so thoroughly enjoyed a novel. Driftless is set in the unglaciated ("driftless") area of southwestern Wisconsin. Rhodes lives in rural Wisconsin and is pitch perfect in how he captures the sense of place and the types of characters who inhabit rural Wisconsin. I felt like I knew these people -- they are for the most part decent, hard working folk who don't make too many demands on others and want to live their lives in peace. Most of the mai ...more
Mar 08, 2013 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So many subplots with no real focus and a host of characters who all seemed to run together in a disjointed story sometimes made the reading quite painful. I liked some of the characters, but I really struggled with Winnie, the pastor of the local church. Her immaturity and behavior belied that of someone reaching out to others and there were many times I thought "this girl needs some serious counseling." When asked what gave her the right to judge, her response that Jesus gave her the right, pr ...more
Iowa City Public Library
When The Color Purple came out in 1982, a reviewer noted how uncommon it was for a characters in a book to get happier as the story went on. Stories need conflict, and this usually involves characters suffering. This year’s All Iowa Reads selection, Driftless, is another book where, people’s lives improve, often in surprising ways, like the very religious invalid who finds herself on a date with a hoodlum at a dogfight.

Rhodes gets so much right, starting with these characters, who change and gro
Will read. Read first story and enjoyed it. Fiction has failed me or I have failed it. Regardless, I am taking a hiatus from fiction (with the possible exception of 100 Years of Solitude).

---Update 3/2014


I have beloved, trusted friends who could not finish and those who loved this book. I am firmly in the latter. I am so glad that I returned to it and started anew. Brilliantly and beautifully written. It makes me pine for this area of Wisconsin that I have visited (to stay with dear f
Jerry Windley-Daoust
There are wonderful moments here...the couple searching for their kids in the blizzard; the pastor confronting the casino owner; the pastor (again) standing in the creek. I loved that Rhodes addresses the spiritual and religious dimension of his characters' lives.

The question this book raised for me was: When does quirk stop making a book interesting and start becoming a distraction? It is probably easier to write quirkier characters than to write "ordinary" characters well.

The sudden plot twist
Morgan Egge kiedrowski
The writing is absolutely beautiful. It's a book that is meant to be read slowly in order to truly appreciate the beauty in the author's descriptions of not just the driftless area of Wisconsin but the people that call it home. I highly recommend it.
Alec Hastings
Jan 23, 2015 Alec Hastings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Winesburg, Ohio so long ago I can't remember anything about it except that it was a hybrid, a cross between a collection of short stories and a novel. The traditional novel has a hero or heroine, Huck Finn or Jane Eyre, for instance. In Winesburg, the reader has a window on a whole community. That's the case in David Rhodes' novel. The story starts with July Montgomery's return to Words, a town in an area of Wisconsin known as Driftless. Grahm Shotwell is a farmer barely hanging onto the ...more
Cee Martinez
May 25, 2011 Cee Martinez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is really a collection of short stories about a group of people living in a rural Wisconsin town called "Words". One of the major characters, and to me, one of the most likeable, is a farmer named July Montgomery who lives a lonely life after tragedy took his wife from him, but he fills that gap by becoming something of a touchstone to his neighbors. Apparently, this character has appeared in the author's previous books, written decades ago, quite acclaimed and, I'm afraid I haven't r ...more
marcus miller
Jul 09, 2010 marcus miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand the make up of a small, dying, mid-western town this wouldn't be a bad place to start. In the prologue Rhodes writes that it took him ten years to write this book because it took him that long to get to know some of his characters. And that is sort of the way it is in a small town where many of the most interesting folks are the hardest to get to know, or at least know well.
This isn't a book you want to hurry through and in that way the pace of the book is a bit like a
Iowa City Public Library
I keep my eyes open for books set in the midwest which is why I was drawn to the most recent winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, Driftless by David Rhodes. I got more than I was looking for. First of all, a very intriguing author story. David Rhodes is a 1971 UI Writers Workshop grad. He published three books between 1972 and 1975. In 1977 he was injured in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. This is his first book published in thirty years.

And, then, th
Oct 20, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of a man who, at the beginning of the novel, is profoundly lonely: "His life had grown too thin, and he was nearing the end of himself. He was living but didn't feel alive. He knew no one from the inside--feeling the center of their life--and no one knew him." Ultimately, however, the main theme of the novel is how we as human beings are interdependent, how community runs through our very souls, defining what it means to be human. The writing it wonderful and the characters are b ...more
May 14, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book had a motorcycle accident in the early '70's, and thirty years went by between his earlier published works and this one. David Rhodes has crafted a beautifully told tale of the fictitious small town of Words in northwestern Wisconsin. Words is located in the "driftless" region of the state, which was untouched by the glaciers during the Ice Age, capable of causing large areas of land to drift up, down, or sideways. Words has stayed pretty much the same over the years, and ...more
Feb 14, 2010 Kathie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, wisconsin
Driftless was written by a lover of words--it's chock full of rich and insightful characterizations of people and their surroundings, lending a warmth and depth to people who at first glimpse might seem plain and stoic. This is my kind of wordiness.

Some situations in the book strain credulity just a bit, almost entering the realm of magical realism. I'm slightly less enthusiastic about these aspects of the book, but I'm willing to leave my reality at the door for the sake of a good story.

Some st
May 03, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lisa
Shelves: fiction
I am always partial to a book that expands my vocabulary {fugacious, rondure, empyrean}. In addition, this novel transported me into an rather isolated community in Southwestern Wisconsin, and immersed me so completely that it seemed that I could have grown up there. The people became so real and sympathetic that I found my self taking their rhythm of life and attitudes for granted, even when, upon reflection, I realized I wouldn't be comfortable with the lifestyle and I disagreed with many of t ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. No, really.

I was surprised how easily the characters in this book earned my love and respect. I usually need time to bond with characters, choosing long-running series to give me time to let each person become part of me. Driftless, a collection of short vignettes concerning people living in or near Words, Wisconsin, is so powerfully written that I needed almost no time at all before wanting to cheer these people on toward the growth and change they so desperately need.

Each character's cri
Gary Baughn
Jul 27, 2013 Gary Baughn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did I let the setting in Wisconsin affect my judgment? Probably. But this is a very well written book, filled with moments of lyrical description. It is also a well-plotted book, with lives intersecting in interesting and meaningful ways, to the degree that I wanted to keep some sort of Venn diagram going as I read.
But, most importantly, the characters are uniques but also like people you know. That's an essential but a tought trick to pull off. There is a community here that doesn't quite think
Feb 27, 2014 Verena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Driftless, by David Rhodes is an interesting collection of characters struggling with a variety of problems: a whistleblowing stand against a corrupt big business, a marriage in trouble, a man's inability to move beyond grief, a musician's passion to create, a co-dependency of two sisters, a parolee needing stability, an aging couple needing house repairs, a young pastor looking for answers. Add to this a cougar where it shouldn't be, ominous militia meeting in the woods, a frightening blizzard, ...more
Feb 15, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rhodes has created characters you grow to love because although they seem idiosyncratic at first, you begin to realize how much all of us have in common, how much these old-fashioned, self-reliant, naive rural people are like anyone else, no matter how rich, urban or sophisticated. The several story lines intertwine and pick up the pace pretty quickly with humor, suspense and tragedy.

This book may have special appeal for me since I know this part of Wisconsin well, but I also think it has unive
Rheetha Lawlor
Apr 04, 2015 Rheetha Lawlor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lawlor-book-club
I would actually rate this as a 3.5 starred book. I really enjoyed reading it, and I appreciate the life and death concept of the characters- what is living, what is dying, how it impacts the small community around them. And I even get the somewhat hanging threads not quite wrapped up to make the reader feel as though he is looking at a group of people, able to stay for awhile, but never quite being a part. And we never really know what happens to people in real life. And, I have to admit, Olivi ...more
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As a young man, David Rhodes worked in fields, hospitals, and factories across Iowa. After receiving an MFA in Writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1971, he published three acclaimed novels: The Last Fair Deal Going Down (1972), The Easter House (1974), and Rock Island Line (1975). In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him partially paralyzed. In 2008, Rhodes returned to the lite
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“We are all connected in ways we cannot even begin to fathom. Our lives unfold through each other and within each other. What one suffers, we all feel. What one does changes others forever.” 21 likes
“We are not separate, and I want you to know that. We are all part of one thing, and nothing good has ever passed or ever can pass away. There is no way out, but there is a way in, and when one person feels lonely like a ghost it touches us all.” 7 likes
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