My book group met yesterday. We are a pretty new group, this is only our fifth discussion. It all began when I and two friends promised ourselves we would start a book group once all three had retired. This past summer the last one went over the wall and by fall we got together and decided who we wanted to invite to join us in this endeavor. Two great women agreed and now we are five. Somebody asked us recently what our group was called. Huh? We didn’t know we needed a name. We started reading in January but not until yesterday’s meeting did we finally find a book that spoke to all of us and generated really meaningful discussion.
That book was Driftless by David Rhodes.
The title refers to an area in southwestern Wisconsin whose rugged terrain is different from the rest of the state because the Pleistocene glaciers did not move through there. The term “driftless” refers to the lack of glacial drift (silt, clay, sand, gravel, boulders ), the material left behind by retreating glaciers. The story takes place in the small fictional town of Words, Wisconsin, and if you know anything about small town dynamics and the people who live there, Words will be very familiar. The book begins with July Montgomery, a drifter who arrived in town 20 years ago and has since made a home for himself. The author then expertly brings us into the lives of the others who live here: Winnie, the preacher, Violet and her invalid sister Olivia, Grahm and Cora whose marriage and livelihood face dangerous challenges, Jacob, mourning his wife, Rusty and Maxine’s interesting relationship, and Gail the musician, to name just a few. But its July’s life and how it intertwines with the lives of all the people that is central to the novel.
For me the book started slow but once I got into it, these people became my neighbors who I felt close to and cared about. Even though it is set in Wisconsin you could put this town in any farming community. The scene where Grahm’s children are lost in a blizzard will make any parent’s stomach clench. Jacob’s surprising encounter with Gail is just priceless. Have I gotten you curious yet?The end of the book came too soon; however it was a strong ending, funny and sad, but good.
With our previous books we have had some interesting discussion but then we’ve gotten distracted by personal talk that has nothing to do with the book. This time, even if another topic would come up, inevitably someone would relate it to the book and we were back inside. After two hours of discussion, I can tell you the nameless book group highly recommends, Driftless.
On another note, four of our members live in the Green Bay area while the fifth resides about 45 minutes away in the Appleton area. This month, to be fair, we decided to hold our meeting closer to her home. She suggested the Atlas Coffee Mill & Cafe which is located on the Fox River. It was a wonderful place. Quiet enough that we could talk, but roomy enough that our conversation wouldn’t bother other customers. The view of the river was fabulous since the cafe is right by one of the dams. Snow melt has turned the water into rushing foam.
And since our discussion took us right up to lunch time, four of us relocated to Carmella’s: an Italian Bistro. Strawberry Rhubarb Bread pudding anyone?