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Binding: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-57131-068-2
Pages: 464
Publish Date: May 2009
Genre: Fiction


BY David Rhodes

When David Rhodes’ first three novels were published in the mid-seventies, he was acclaimed as “one of the best eyes in recent fiction” (John Gardner), and compared favorably to Sherwood Anderson. In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.

Driftless is an unforgettable story of contemporary life in rural America.

With Driftless, Rhodes returns to the midwestern landscape he knows so well, offering a fascinating and entirely unsentimental portrait of a town apparently left behind by the march of time. Home to a few hundred people yet absent from state maps, Words, Wisconsin, comes richly to life by way of an extraordinary cast of characters. Among them, a middle-aged couple guards the family farm from the mendacious schemes of their milk co-operative; a lifelong paraplegic suddenly regains the use of her legs, only to find herself crippled by fury at her sister and caretaker; a woman of conflicting impulses and pastor of the local Friends church stumbles upon an enlightenment she never expected; a cantankerous retiree discovers a cougar living in his haymow, haunting him like a childhood memory; and a former drifter forever alters the ties that bind a community together.

At once intimate and funny, wise and generous, Driftless is an unforgettable story of contemporary life in rural America.



• Read a Q&A with David Rhodes.
• Is your book club reading Driftless? Let these questions guide your reading group discussion.



The Last Fair Deal Going Down

Originally published in 1972, the debut novel from the acclaimed author of Driftless.
Read more ›


Rock Island Line

First published in 1975, a rediscovered epic novel.
Read more ›


The Easter House

From the celebrated author of Driftless, a masterful and suspenseful novel.
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The follow-up to the critically acclaimed Midwestern magical realism novel, Driftless.
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The follow-up to the critically acclaimed Midwestern magical realism novel, Driftless.
Read more ›

Editorial ReviewGoodreads Review

“After thirty years, Rhodes has delivered, in Driftless, a version of Midwestern pastoral that shoots him to the highest rank of American writers. Together, [Driftless and Rock Island Line] constitute a credible idealization of the American character, free from its political reductions, as worthy of attention as Franklin, Paine, Jefferson, Twain, and Hemingway’s characterizations of the ideal American. . . . [In Driftless, Rhodes has written] one of the most moving descriptions of death in American fiction.”

Harvard Review

“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”

“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

“[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 illuminates the wisdom acquired through hard work, the ancient covenant of farming, and the balm of kindness. Encompassing and incisive, comedic and profound, Driftless is a radiant novel of community and courage.”

Booklist, 2008 Editor’s Choice, starred review

“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 characters and their struggles come vibrantly alive.”

Library Journal


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David Rhodes

David Rhodes wrote three novels in the 1970s, gaining recognition as "one of the best eyes in recent fiction" (John Gardner). An accident that paralyzed him from the chest down began a 32 year publishing hiatus for Rhodes, broken by his recent book, Driftless.

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