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The Driftless Area

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  970 ratings  ·  148 reviews
The new novel from the award-winning author of The End of Vandalism is a wry and sophisticated heist drama. Set in the rugged region of the Midwest that gives the novel its title, The Driftless Area is the story of Pierre Hunter, a young bartender with unfailing optimism, a fondness for coin tricks, and an uncanny capacity for finding trouble. When he falls in love, with ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2006 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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Christine Emme It alludes to sex but isn't graphic. Probably a high schooler. It has mature themes (death, murder, theft) but none of them are glorified

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J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Tom Drury is an Iowan and a little known national treasure as an author. Drury usually writes about small town life and characters in a very humorous, deadpan sort of style. In THE DRIFTLESS AREA, we get more of a feeling of mystery and even the supernatural. This was a great read, and was also made into a movie.
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a shitty reading slump, Drury saves the day. He does these dry, whimsical small-town narratives so well, all of life is present (and in this case a little bit more) you get light and dark, and writing that walks a weird tightrope between knowingly comical and that slightly bleak, unpretentious simplicity where you can almost imagine Drury's face having sad eyes and trying not to laugh. It turns out they made a film of this with Zooey, so i went and watched the trailer and not only was ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comicgenius, new
"Do you believe in fate?" is the question posed by Pierre Hunter, the hapless hero of The Driftless Area, Tom Drury's lapidary fairy tale set in an anomalous region of northern Iowa. It is, of course the wrong question, but Pierre can be forgiven; he has just fallen through river ice, and had his life saved by a beautiful woman with whom he has predictably fallen in love. The correct question, as it turns out, is "has the future already happened?" and, as a corollary, "does the little old ...more
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After nearly unanimous critical praise for his first two novels, The End of Vandalism and Hunts in Dreams, the critical response to this one was decidedly mixed. But for my money, this is the best of the three books. I sometimes suspect that Americans, being a famously "pragmatic" lot (not really, but they think they are), get antsy when ghosts appear in "serious" literature. Anything that seems to smell even faintly of magic realism, or surrealism, gets many of us all hot and bothered. We have ...more
Sep 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Drury Fans
The Driftless Area has the same austere and precise prose as Drury's other books, and that same strange tone: whimsicality mixed with realism, lightness and darkness intertwined. In this novel, however, Drury tries something new plot-wise, adding supernatural elements and what the summary on the back cover calls "neo-noir". I wouldn't go that far, but there is a sinister storyline here that occasionally feels at odds with Drury's trademark silliness and anti-plot scenes in which people talk ...more
Nicole Fabian
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
my favorite author of the moment - this and his other books are philosophical, introspective, witty, and real. the reader can identify with things that each character says or does, so there's no black-and-white "bad guy" or "good guy." love this author!
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
did i miss something important, or do people just like it for the visible nipples on the front cover?
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
i have no idea why this book has the cover that it has. this is an understated, weird midwestern-gothic novel about coincidence, throwing rocks at moving vehicles, mailing money to strangers, reenactments of bank robberies. i guess it's sort of hard to distill that into a cover image but still, pretty girl with freckles in a field of dirt is definitely not the correct vibe.

i like tom drury *a lot* -- "end of vandalism" was a revelation, albeit a quiet / subtle / downbeat one. this is shorter and
Sean Beaudoin
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I bet it would take about four seconds of Googling "Tom Drury" before you came up with the phrase "he's a writer's writer." That's because his brand of deceptively simple and elegant prose is sometimes dismissed as being sort of lightweight or not literary enough, but it's obvious to anyone who has tried to write decent fiction (and mostly failed) exactly how difficult it is to achieve this level of clarity, even for a fable or sly ghost story, whichever this may be. Either way, it's really ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm stunned by this book. I went along for the ride in Drury's masterpiece, and I experienced reading like I never had before. The writing "drifts" seamlessly from one topic to another and I felt as though I was skating through the story. At times Drury's writing seems simplistic in the way that a Picasso painting seems basic to a neophyte, but the deeper I fell into the story, the more I realized that each word was so carefully prepared and each sentence so carefully crafted that the story's ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
After I was completely fed up, I started skimming. I finished it, but I wish I had never even picked it up. Honestly, I don't even know wtf the story was supposed to be about. The description was very misleading.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who watch obvious detective shows
this is a classic case of a dust jacket hypejob. i picked this book up off the shelf, read the jacket, and wanted to read it. it said modern pulp. it said midwest noir. it was pappy crap. i'm happy it was short. when i was done i reread the jacket - lies. you can't win them all.
Patrick Brown
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: Edan Lepucki
Go read Edan's review of it. She said it all.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was so weird, a lot happened but it was all written in such a nonchalant manner that I found myself rereading paragraphs just to make sure it really had happened. I loved the story even if it took a bit of a dumb supernatural turn and some of the characters were kind of bare with no real progression.
Amanda L
In The Driftless Area, Drury exposes the oft-neglected pulse and vitality of no-name, USA. It is love for small-time Americana, made real by the folks who live and breathe it. The writing and characters are very simple yet he's crafted a good proportion of them with remarkable wit.

The story takes an incredible twist as it arcs, but prior to that there is nothing very fantastic about the events on display. Up to the end, it's all arbitrary and mundane yet somehow it's so amazingly magnetic to be
3 Stars

This was the second book in a row I read that was short with a lot of good ideas that were not developed enough. I first saw the trailer for the movie adaptation and was immediately intrigued. But the things that intrigued me from the trailer and then from the book description were never fully manifested in the story itself. Never having read anything else by this author, it is hard to say if this is just his style or if he was experimenting. It left me wanting more and not in an entirely
Alexander Elmore
Aug 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama, mystery, noir, adult
Though slow to start, I did enjoy The Driftless Area a considerable amount. I don't mind slow openings, and this one was not bad. For about the first 5 chapters (there are only 10, so roughly half the book) there is no mystery or noir of any real sort. There is however alcoholism, romance/sex, and a brief near-death experience. Once the plot started rolling, however, it went. Drury's novel did keep me entertained the whole read and had an interesting plot/characters; however, my biggest problem ...more
Melissa Service
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I actually heard about this novel from a movie preview of the Driftless Area and ended up watching the movie while I was only in chapter 2 because of the haunting imagery of the movie preview. I also liked that the author was a fellow writer from the Midwest. This book was slow to start, but I kept reading it because I enjoyed the movie. Both the movie and the novel had the same sort of dry story-telling, but it was a good story, and not terribly difficult to read. I enjoyed that the book told ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, america, midwest
Maybe it's because I'm from Iowa and it's comforting to hear that straight, plain way of talking again: "Tell you what we're going to do", and calling storm windows storms and saying billfold instead of wallet. It all reminds me of my dad, gravel roads, men saying goodbye to each other like "Well." "Okay then."

but also
-a perfectly subdued, dour humor
-a story bent on impending violence, steadily marching toward it, no way around it
-philosophical ponderings on the passage of time, and on fate,
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been randomly selecting books to read in the library quite frequently these days. The Driftless Area was one such book. I picked it up in the library this afternoon and read it in one sitting. (I read it at the library, actually. In the corner by the paperback romances, which I certainly didn't do on purpose, let me tell you.)

Anyhow, yes! This was an odd little book, but strangely satisfying. And with a plot twist or two that I didn't see coming.

Chalk another point up for random library
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
You can tell you are reading a Drury book by the characters and the "winter in the fields" feel of the writing. I'm from a small rural town about a state east of Drury's location, and it feels a bit like home. Although more off kilter, way more off kilter. This has an odd and engaging plot that asks some deep questions and discusses them with plain talk and humor, and odd twists.
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't really know. This was kind of confusing.
Janetta Miller
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book takes on a journey into the supernatural realm that is both enticing and believable. The setting is northeast Iowa, an area that I find magical as well as familiar.
Vivienne Strauss
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. The blend of philosophy, surrealism and realism was just perfect. Felt kind of like Blue Velvet meets Repo Man.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review originally published on my blog:

I requested this from the library after hearing the good folks at the New York Times Book Review podcast review it on 30 June.

I had, apparently, heard of Tom Drury before, as a few of his other books are on my Goodreads' to-read list. I've never read any of them, but after this I'm definitely planning to.

This book had a sort of... Midwestern Murakami feel to it. So of course I really liked it, because I really like
Sean Owen
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tom Drury's "End Of Vandalism" was a great book. He really captures both the monotony and the meaning of day to day life and he does it with this great sly sense of humor. "The Driftless Area" is written in a similar style, but Drury definitely doesn't just give more of the same. The same subtle funny writing is wrapped up in a story that takes a severe turn halfway through and poses all kinds of questions about fate wrapped up with mystical happenings. It caught me off guard, but I rolled with ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not as strong as his other books but still entertaining. Pierre a young man is a drifter. A chance encounter with a man like himself, only with a criminal attitude, makes him 77 thousand dollars richer and in a lot more trouble. Still, he loves life, things are looking up, he has met a woman named Stella and he used the money to do a good deed. More of a fantastical element in this story than others of his I’ve read but it comes together nicely. A quick read, surely worth an evening or two.

Julie M
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
An odd but satisfying book that takes place in the Midwest and includes crime, time, and the occasional bad rhyme (I wanted to write "bad poem" but couldn't get myself to do it). Don't read if you only like reading realism.

Nice quotation from the sort of preachy ending (delivered by the preacher, bien sur): "This is not to say that there is no plan but only that we in our limited vision cannot see it. How could we? For we are inside a great and wondrous world that is more or less of a mystery
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Tom Drury was born in 1956. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Drury has published short fiction and essays in The New Yorker, A Public Space, Ploughshares, Granta, The Mississippi Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. His novels have been translated into German, Spanish, and French. "Path Lights," a story Drury published in The New Yorker, was made into a ...more
“A face is a kind of a mask anyway, when you think about it," he said.

Rudd took a drink and set the glass down. "You should never ask Pierre anything."

"You don't make your face," said Pierre. "It's given to you. You might think it represents your true self, but why would it? Half the time you make an expression and think, Oh, this is my whatever expression, and nobody even knows what you're thinking.”
“Accelerated Rehabilitation had a scientific sound, as if Pierre would rehabilitate faster and faster in an elliptical path until evaporating in a blue flash of pure mental health.” 3 likes
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