When David Rhodes burst onto the American literary scene in the '70s, he was hailed as "a brilliant visionary" (John Gardner). In "Driftless," his "most accomplished work yet" (Joseph Kanon), Rhodes made Words, Wisconsin, resonate with readers across the country. Now with "Jewelweed" this beloved author returns to the same out-of-the-way community and introduces a cast of characters who must overcome the burdens left by the past. After serving time for a dubious conviction, Blake Bookchester is paroled. As Blake attempts to adjust, he reconnects with Danielle Workhouse, a single mother whose son, Ivan, explores the woods with his precocious friend, August. While Danielle goes to work for Buck and Amy Roebuck in their mansion, Ivan and August befriend Lester Mortal, a recluse who lives in a melon field; a wild boy; and a bat, Milton. These characters -- each flawed, deeply human, and ultimately universal -- approach the future with a combination of hope and trepidation. "Jewelweed" offers a vision in which the ordinary becomes mythical, the seemingly mundane transformed into revelatory beauty.
About the Author
David Rhodes grew up near Des Moines where he attended a Quaker School. He dropped out of Beloit College in the 60's and eventually graduated from Marlboro College in Vermont. After receiving an MFA in Writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1971, he published three novels in rapid succession to acclaim: "The Last Fair Deal Going Down" (Atlantic/Little, Brown, 1972), "The Easter House "(Harper & Row, 1974), and "Rock Island Line" (Harper & Row, 1975). A motorcycle accident in 1976 left him paralyzed from the chest down. He continued writing, but did not publish again until 2008 when his novel, "Driftless," was published. It received a Milkweed National Fiction prize, was read on Wisconsin Public Radio, and was chosen as an All Iowa Reads selection. Milkweed has reissued all of his previous books. He currently lives with his wife, Edna, in Wonewoc, WI.
Praise for Jewelweed…
"Reminiscent of Steinbeck...with a little touch of Michener...["Driftless"] offers deep philosophical and meditative asides."
--Alan Cheuse, on NPR's "All Things Considered"
"A fast moving story about small town life."
--Jeffrey Trachtenberg, in a feature on David Rhodes in "The Wall Street Journal"
""Driftless" is such a rewarding read--a surely written, patient book about small town life...[It] 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 with words....A wry generous book."
--Yvonee Zipp, "The Christian Science Monitor"
"His Robert Alman-esque new novel, "Driftless," marks his triumphant reemergence in the book world after thirty-three years..."
--Kera Bolonik, intro to Q&A with David Rhodes in "BookForum"
"The best work of fiction to come out of the midwest in many years."
""Driftless" has been a long time coming, but definitely worth the wait...vividly imagined, shrewd, and compassionate. He is a master at uncovering the extraordinary lives of seemly ordinary people. The characters of his small town rural town become as mysterious, interconnected, and richly idiosyncratic as the landscape they struggle against and embrace. A wonderful novel."
"Folks in a small town from ex-prisoner to preacher, outcast boys to the very old, try to get by facing what seem to them to be the imperfections of their character while pursuing their longing for connection to community--community of others and community with themselves. Rhodes masterfully paints their many layered complexity in language so vivid and kind, it nearly renders the reader breathless. This is a damn fine novel--one of the best kinds--where ordinary people living ordinary lives are drawn by the deft & lyrical touch of the author in such an achingly rich way, one quietly marvels. When you read a novel like this where you dearly wish to move in with the characters, they have already moved in with you."
--Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA
"With an honest and understated style, "Jewelweed" explores relationships at their deepest levels. Rhodes describes the natural world and his characters' inner lives with equal passion, creating an ensemble as natural to its landscape as the trees. The motivations that drive his characters to cross paths are true ones, and the mysteries that cry out for resolution are tangible and urgent. "Jewelweed" is a remarkable piece of storytelling, soul-felt and deeply moving."
--Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
"From philosophical prison inmates to childhood-haunted truckers, Rhodes's melange of characters feels so real, you'd swear you lived among them."
--Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
"With "Jewelweed," David Rhodes has once more produced a moving, deeply thoughtful novel, of poor people doing difficult things often against their best interests in a little town in the upper Midwest. He is the same writer, maybe better, as the author of "Driftless." A lovely book. "
--Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA