Thursday, August 31, 2006



Tom Drury, The Driftless Area (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).

Tom Drury's novel is a slender one, but it takes a while to get started. His hero, Pierre Hunter, a bartender in his 20s, comes into a large sum of money almost by accident and then must worry about those who want it back, but these things do not start to transpire until almost halfway into the novel. Drury takes a while to let us grow familiar with Pierre and the little of the Upper Midwest (Iowa? Minnesota?) where he lives. Pierre has a strange encounter with Stella, who pulls him out after he goes skating across an insufficiently frozen lake, and the two start up a private romance. Unbeknownst to Pierre, Stella has unnatural secrets in her past, and these set the stage for the denouement when the prior owners of Pierre's windfall finally track him down. Reviewers compare this angle to the Coen brothers or David Lynch, but Drury has a tone all his own, and it's neither as madcap as the Coen brothers or as twisted as the best of David Lynch. In The End Of Vandalism, Drury's first novel, he told a story set on this turf in a wry and heartfelt way. The Driftless Area finds Drury back in the same neighborhood but trying out a different song.

Correction: The Driftless Area was published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, not Knopf.
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