David Rhodes named his book, Driftless
, after the Driftless Area
, which comprises Southwestern Wisconsin, Northwestern Illinois, Northeastern Iowa, and Southeastern Minnesota, and is bereft of sediment or glacial drift left behind as the last ice age's glaciers receded into Canada. And both the novel's topography and that of its characters reflect this.
The book portrays the forgotten, driftless (and fictitious) town of Words, Wisconsin, which has been left behind by all of the technological and societal advancements the United States have made in the last fifty years. They are a rustic, reclusive people. They are Rusty Smith, whose dilapidated house he needs to repair before his wife's family visits, and the Amish men he hires begrudgingly to help him; they are Grahm and Cora Shotwell, who run a small dairy farm in cooperation with American Milk until Cora finds evidence that A. M. sells tainted, watered-down, and biogenetically "enhanced" product and they are forced to decide between dignity and prosperity; they are the spinster Violet Brasso and her physically handicapped sister, Olivia, devout Christians in an insincere and unbelieving world. They are the rural separatist militia, who test their guns daily and warn of the U.S. government's imminent demise. And they are July Montgomery, the man who connects them all, a man who all but materialized out of a cornfield one day and decided, hey, why not here?
This novel shows how rural people deal with a world they can't quite control; it echoes the late 19th century's Naturalism
, in that sense. It's a beautiful novel that captures the essence of the Midwest perfectly.