Rock Island Line

Rock Island Line

“Beautiful and haunting in a way you have not encountered before.” —JONATHAN CARROLL
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Originally published in 1975 to great acclaim, Rock Island Line introduces a memorable character in American fiction: July Montgomery. Born and raised in the idyll of Sharon Center, Iowa—a life of four-leaf clovers, dogs, and fishing—the young boy is rocked by the tragic death of his parents, a blow that precipitates his bitter exile from Eden. Fleeing via the Rock Island Line, July lands in Philadelphia and fashions a ghostly and insulated existence in an underground train station.

When a young woman frees July from his malaise, they return together to the Iowa heartland, where the novel soars to its heartrending consummation. Restored to the setting of his beloved grandparents and parents, and yet perched on the precipice of a disaster that could herald his end, July must decide whether to continue running, or stand still and hope for a promised dawn.

Rock Island Line brings David Rhodes’s striking characterizations and unparalleled eye for the telling detail to a haunting tale of paradise lost—and possibly regained.

Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 1 in
19.3 oz

David Rhodes

David Rhodes (1946-2022) is the author of Painting Beyond Walls. As a young man, he worked in fields, hospitals, and factories across Iowa.

Praise and Prizes

  • “A kind of dark but luminous Candide, Rock Island Line is beautiful and haunting in a way you have not encountered before. I read the book when it first came out over thirty years ago and it has lived in both my heart and head ever since.”

    Jonathan Carroll
    author of The Land of Laughs
  • “Conjuringly clever … David Rhodes comes through with the goods… . A rather cunningly managed game with genres of American fiction.”

    Times Literary Supplement
  • “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.”

    Harvard Review
  • “David Rhodes, a catalytic fabulist, seems to belong in the long line of tall taletellers from Bunyan to Pynchon … to Walker Percy. Rhodes has a wide-open talent and there’s humor, imagination and drive all under its wingspread.”