Jewelweed (Paperback)

By David Rhodes

Milkweed Editions, 9781571311061, 451pp.

Publication Date: April 8, 2014

May 2013 Indie Next List

“Can people start over? Jewelweed proves many can in spite of lost loves, war and imprisonment. Blake Bookchester has just been paroled from a system that promotes postmodern slavery and a war on minorities and the poor. He returns to his hometown, Words, Wisconsin where he will ty to reconcile with his past and forge a new future. Other people who form this small community will grab your heart and not let go. For one, August, a teen, but wise beyond his years, spouts profound remarks such as: 'our planet is turning into a 'new region of hell' with its senseless wars, torture practiced openly, needless starvation, homelessness, higher and higher suicide rates, pollution, species extinction, and the greedy arrogance of the thousand hired thieves in government.' You will love Florence, who speaks 'at the speed of ice melting at the North Pole'; Wally who writes down items he will miss when he dies; Danielle, aka Dart, abused as a young girl doing her best to raise her son Ivan; Winnie, the town's minister and most of all, a wild boy. Is he real or an hallucination? Jewelweed, a plant that looks like little pieces of jewelry strung together on heavy green thread, is an apt description of the people of Words, all tied together and realizing the importance of community to their individual lives. You won't want to miss a word of David Rhodes' magical, soul-felt novel. Highly recommended and may he continue his deeply moving story-telling.”
— Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, MI
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Description

From a masterful storyteller, comes a Midwestern epic that illuminates the majestic in the commonplace.

When David Rhodes burst onto the American literary scene in the 1970s, he was hailed as "a brilliant visionary" (John Gardner), and compared to Sherwood Anderson and Marilynne Robinson. In Driftless, his "most accomplished work yet" (Joseph Kanon), Rhodes brought Words, WI, to life in a way that resonated with readers across the country. Now with Jewelweed, this beloved author returns to the same out-of-the-way hamlet and introduces a cast of characters who all find themselves charged with overcoming the burdens left by the past, sometimes with the help of peach preserves or pie.

After serving time for a dubious conviction, Blake Bookchester is paroled and returns home. The story of Blake's hometown is one of challenge, change, and redemption, of outsiders and of limitations, and simultaneously one of supernatural happenings and of great love. Each of Rhodes's characters--flawed, deeply human, and ultimately universal--approach the future with a combination of hope and trepidation, increasingly mindful of the importance of community to their individual lives. Rich with a sense of empathy and wonder, Jewelweed offers a vision in which the ordinary becomes mythical.


About the Author

David Rhodes grew up near Des Moines where he attended a Quaker School. He dropped out of Beloit College in the 1960s and eventually graduated from Marlboro College in Vermont. After receiving an M.F.A. 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 Wisconsin.


Praise For Jewelweed

"[A] rhapsodic, many-faceted novel of profound dilemmas, survival, and gratitude.... Rhodes portrays his smart, searching, kind characters with extraordinary dimension as each wrestles with what it means to be good and do good." Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

Jewelweed is a novel of forgiveness, a generous ode to the spirit’s indefatigable longing for love.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Brave and inspiring.... Rhodes also has important things to say about humble, hardworking Americans at odds with contemporary American culture, which he finds predatory, corporate, and soulless. An impressive and emotionally gratifying novel; highly recommended for fans of literary fiction." Library Journal

"Masterful storytelling.... The characters in Driftless and Jewelweed are rendered with such care and precision that this little known region of the Midwest becomes dazzlingly alive. At the same time, Rhodes' decision to publish again marks a welcome return of a master storyteller of real people who live in our small towns." Chicago Tribune Printers Row Journal

"A benevolent sort of rural American magical realism.... profound." Publishers Weekly

I liked Driftless, but his emotionally rich new novel, Jewelweed, a sequel of sorts, is even better. The novel emits frequent solar flares of surprise and wonder.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A master of nuance, Rhodes picks up on those 'inaudible rhythms' that drive human actions: fear, regret, friendship, yearning, and a desire for forgiveness." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

[A] deeply moving meditation on the resonance of each individual life on a small Wisconsin town.” Wisconsin State Journal

Jewelweed is another book that all Iowa should read." Iowa Press-Citizen

A damn fine novelone of the best kindswhere ordinary people living ordinary lives are drawn by the deft and lyrical touch of the author in such an achingly rich way, one quietly marvels.” Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield’s Books

Rhodes describes the natural world and his characters’ inner lives with equal passion, creating an ensemble as natural to its landscape as the trees. Jewelweed is a remarkable piece of storytelling, soul-felt and deeply moving.” Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose Bookstore

David Rhodes takes seemingly mundane events, and makes them magic. The everyday is made spectacular through his telling.” Jack Hannert, Brilliant Books

From philosophical prison inmates to childhood-haunted truckers, Rhodes’s mélange of characters feels so real, you’d swear you lived among them.” Emily Crowe, The Odyssey Bookshop

With Jewelweed, David Rhodes has once more produced a moving, deeply thoughtful novel, of poor people doing difficult things, often against their best interests. He is the same writer, maybe better, as the author of Driftless.” Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights Books



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. Food is a key element in Jewelweed. Beginning with the breakfast pie Nate eats in the first chapter, food, taste and smell all seem critical to this story. What are some other instances where food is central to the narrative? How has food played an important role in your life?generic viagra price canada
  2. Early in the novel, Winnie considers “how she might know herself better” (35). In what ways are the other characters trying to know themselves better? Which characters are the most successful?generic viagra price canada
  3. The characters in Jewelweed all seem to be yearning for freedom. Freedom looks different for each of the characters, but can the concept be distilled? Do any of the characters find the freedom they seek?generic viagra price canada
  4. Did the justice system fail Blake? Does Jewelweed offer a critique of the system?generic viagra price canada
  5. There are glimpses of the fantastic throughout Jewelweed – the giant turtle that evades capture, the Wild Boy’s ability to be largely unseen, the extraordinarily lifelike statues Lester Mortal creates and then burns as a way of letting go of parts of his past. How does Rhodes make the ordinary seem extraordinary? Does his writing style evoke the fantastic, or does the content?generic viagra price canada
  6. What function does the Wild Boy serve? When the details of the Wild Boy are fleshed out as Jewelweed comes to a close, does your opinion of Lester Mortal change?generic viagra price canada
  7. At one point Blake says to Jacob, “Do you ever think maybe there are some things you weren’t supposed to get over? Things that would take you the rest of your life to work through?” (209) What hasn’t Blake gotten over? What have other characters been unable to let go of?generic viagra price canada
  8. Why do Ivan and August have such a strong bond? How does August’s worldview impact his relationship with other characters?generic viagra price canada
  9. Faith is a central theme in Jewelweed – religious and otherwise. How does Winnie’s faith evolve throughout the course of the book? How does Rhodes create the sacred through language?generic viagra price canada
  10. Blake mentions experiencing “deathless grief” (423). What does he mean by this? Are there other deathless griefs in Jewelweed?generic viagra price canada
  11. How does the Midwestern landscape affect the story? Is there a “Midwestern” voice at play? Would you know Jewelweed takes place in the Midwest if it wasn’t specified? What makes something “Midwestern”?generic viagra price canada
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