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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"The Word" from Word, Wisconsin

“What I do know is that God loves us, completely, every one of us, all the time, and upon that single fact the hundred billion stars are hung. That love is both the source and the cause of all life.” Those words from David Rhodes’ Driftless are one of my favorite book lines ever. And I’ve underlined millions of lines in books over the years. Driftless is one of those rare books that I read with no preconceived notion, no idea what the book was even about. My wonderful friend Beverly recommended it for our book club and I downloaded it on my Kindle and read, never even having seen the book in a store or library.  It was a delightful surprise.
Published in 2008, Driftless is a series of connected chapters about the different characters in a very small town in the driftless zone of Wisconsin. Driftless is a geological term referring to the fact that the retreating glaciers at the end of the Ice Age somehow missed this area, creating a unique topography.  The town portrayed in the book – Word – is also unique, and also bypassed by the modern world in many ways.  A central figure emerges like Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge to connect all the characters in the novel.  The enigmatic July Montgomery reaches out to each character in different ways, but seems to understand what each person needs most. As a reader, I was deeply involved in and connected to each character. July Montgomery was more in the background of each person’s story.  As the narratives began to overlap, each person in the book was equally important to me and July’s importance becomes more clear. I won’t say more, but if you liked Olive Kitteridge, you will love this novel. It’s not a religious book, even though my opening quote in this review might make you think that. It’s a book about humanity and hope and redemption and community.
David Rhodes is a highly skilled writer and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of him. I learned that he wrote three critically acclaimed novels thirty years ago and then disappeared after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed.  Driftless is his first book since the accident. I hope to see many more "words" from this intriguing author.

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been reading this year (since I’ve been sporadic on this blog), here is a list. I want to review several of them, but you’ll have to wait. Starting with the most recent (before Driftless), I’ve read The House Girl by Tara Conklin, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quinlen, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Wonder by R. J. Palacio. I’ve only reviewed Wild, but I’d love to tell you about Wonder (amazing!!) and The Night Circus. But that will have to be another day! Happy reading!