I started a while back with Rhodes’ Rock Island Line, but it was Driftless that got me hooked. Rhodes is amazing at creating people in a world and inviting the reader in. These are ordinary people who know how to do things, like fix cars, but are less confident when it comes to living their lives. Rhodes is so capable of taking the small moment – a bite of peach pie, for example – and unfolding it carefully so it becomes something quietly majestic. He also knows what to leave out – what, for example, happened between Nate and Bee during their week in Slippery Slopes? Rhodes creates relentlessly decent people – ones who have been in jail or stolen a necklace or who are very ill or parents trying to do their best for their children (adopted or otherwise) – and puts them together in an amazingly hypnotic 47 chapters (440+ pages) that I never wanted to have end. If he has the taste for the surreal at times – a wise turtle, a former pastor who levitates – he still makes it all work. One of my favorite passages (416-417) –

And do you think people can ever be forgiven for what they don’t know about themselves, for paying too much attention to what frightens them and too little to what makes them happy? Do you think there is any future for people who have been so ignorant for so long about everything? Do you think people can really start over? Do you think they can wake up one morning and –

Yes, I do.

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