Paperback: 9781571310682, Perseus, $16
After a 30-year silence David Rhodes returns with a magnificent novel about the intertwined lives of a rural community. Words is a small town in southwestern Wisconsin where glacial deposits, called drifts, are missing—thus the title. July Montgomery, the hero of Rhodes’ 1975 novel Rock Island Line, is a central character. The novel contains many story lines: The powerful milk cooperative, once the pride of area farmers, is now cheating them. A cankerous retired farmer reluctantly hires Amish men to do work on his house. A young, self-doubting, female pastor finds enlightenment in an unlikely place. There are two sisters, one in a wheelchair, and the other the long-suffering caretaker. Add to this cast a reappearing cougar, children lost in a blinding blizzard, illegal dog fighting, a country singer, an Indian casino, and militias training deep in the forest, and you have a rich portrayal of rural America.