Driftless by David Rhodes

I loved this book and everybody in it. If you are a fan of small town life, this will be right up your alley. Driftless is set, naturally enough, in a small town in Wisconsin and follows the lives of many of its inhabitants. Reading through the reviews on Amazon it seems the common thread is a love of the characters and their relationships with one another.

The person that ties the whole story together is July Montgomery. July was a drifter who came into the area one dark night and decided to stay. Most of the other characters are lifelong residents of the region and they all come to rely on July in some way. I’m tempted to think that the name “July” symbolizes that he brought summer into an area that is filled with very long winters, but that may be my fanciful imagination. After thinking this for the bulk of the book, I recently found out that July is a character from another of Rhodes’ books that he wrote about thirty years ago. This makes me doubt that my original idea has any merit, but who knows?

The characters of this story encounter all sorts of challenges and adventures. A wild panther on the loose, an encounter with the Divine, dog fighting, gambling, and deadly blizzards are just a few of the situations that will keep you turning the pages.

Rhodes published three highly acclaimed novels in the 70’s. He was then involved in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed. This is the first book he’s published since his accident and his excellent writing has continued. Driftless won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. Having never heard of this award I went to their website and found that the Milkweed is for “ … fiction manuscripts of high literary quality that embody humane values and contribute to cultural understanding”. While this may sound like boring reading to some folks, I assure you this book is not!

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