Jewelweed: A Novel

by David Rhodes

Paperback, 2014

Call number




Milkweed Editions (2014), 464 pages


Paroled after doing time in prison, Blake Bookchester attempts to reconnect with single mother Danielle Workhouse, who works for Buck and Amy Roebuck at their mansion while her son, Ivan, explores the woods with a precocious friend.

User reviews

LibraryThing member porch_reader
I heard David Rhodes read from this book at the Iowa City Book Festival. It is a follow-up to [Driftless], and since I had not read either book, I bought them both. Driftless was a great book, filled with multi-dimensional characters and a strong sense of place. In [Jewelweed], we return to the Driftless region of Wisconsin, revisiting some characters and meeting others for the first time.

If it is possible, I enjoyed Jewelweed even more than Driftless, although that may be because I picked it up at the end of the semester and had several days to sink into it. Rhodes focuses on a few interlocking characters. Pastor Winnie is back and has struck up a friendship with Blake Bookchester who is in prison. Pastor Winnie's son August is friends with Ivan, a boy who has to repeat fifth grade and whose mother, Danielle (Dart) Workhorse, struggles to provide for them both. Dart's fortunes begin to turn when she goes to work for a family who owns a construction company and has a son who is plagued with health problems, but her past is hard to escape. No one's lives are secure, but as they deal with the challenges they've been dealt, it becomes clear that there is strength in the ties that bind these small town residents together. It is also clear that Rhodes knows each character well, respects their strengths, and forgives them their weaknesses. He also loves the land, writing nature as a central character that grounds the characters.

I was also struck by how much I remembered of the passage that Rhodes read during his reading. Even though that was two and a half months ago, I could hear his voice in my head as I re-read that part of the book. It made me feel like I knew the characters a little more deeply.

This is definitely one of my memorable reads of the year!
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LibraryThing member denisa.howe
This emotion stitched writing lived in my heart throughout the whole book. It reminded me of a patchwork quilt. It was sewn together by friends, family and a few visitors with a certain pattern of which, it does not stick to. And yet they with love, compassion, humor and acceptance make it work anyway. This story is the lives of magnificent authentic characters that became real to me. I loved them, hated a few, smiled and desperately wanted to help many and long for their return. The quilt sewn and finished is unique in its excellence, which is actually the flaws.
A father doing his best, deeply feels his emotions without the knowledge of what to do. He has questions, uncertainties and hope. A son with mistakes directed by love of another and a ten year pause in his life and his families. The time has come for him to blend back in and what? His own fears push speed bumps in the middle of his road to his new beginning. Memories guide each of the characters in different directions that we all can relate to, understand and bond us all together.
One of the best reads I have had this year. I shall follow this author and the unique real life in the voice on paper. The stitched quilt of life will remain with me many years and I will probably revisit this writing many times. The author’s voice brings you humanity and all that comes with it.
I won this book via good reads first readers and feel very blessed to have been able to slip in between the pages of such a exceptional written world.
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LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
I started Jewelweed by David Rhodes right in the middle of a move from central Illinois to the beautiful island of Oahu. The result was that I read this book slowly, more slowly than usual for me. It turned out being a marvelous thing. Why? Because I got to chew over the developments and think them through and good grief, this was an epic story and then some.

Jewelweed is the name of a small, weed-like plant that is best left unpicked. This theme is constant throughout Rhodes' story, and with deft, beautiful, lyrical writing, each character is introduced and made to seem as if they are the most important one in the story. What I also really appreciated about this book was the insertion of some really quirky, believable characters. From the friendship of Ivan and August, the inclusion of Kevin, the hermit Lester, the "Wild Boy," Wally and the family, to Blake and Danielle's history and future, there is a diverse, colorful, wonderful set of characters that keep the story moving and remind us of how connected we all are.

I finished reading Jewelweed with a sense of regret and satisfaction, all rolled into one feeling. I was sorry to be saying goodbye, and honestly, a bit surprised when the story finished and the next page showed the acknowledgments. The story seemed as if it would never come to an end, in a good way, and it was a shock to my system to remember that even the best of stories do come to an end.

I'll be looking for more books by David Rhodes, that's for certain. I may not be reintroduced into this same world, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to recapture that feeling of wonder and experience the awakening of my imagination in a similar way.
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LibraryThing member pdebolt
David Rhodes writes about the inhabitants of a small town in Wisconsin with unique empathy. The characters are well developed, and their relationships are complex and haunting. They are all sympathetically portrayed from the paroled convict who enjoys reading Spinoza to the boy with a mystical bat named Milton. Rhodes has imbued ordinary people with sacred qualities that enhance their interactions. With few exceptions, all of the characters are likeable. There are many layers to this book that examine the human heart and its need for redemptive connection. There is a pervasive kindness in this book that makes it very special.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrendaKlaassen
I read this book for an in-person book discussion. The story ended up to be interesting, but the author wrote to many small details for my liking. These details made the book plod along instead of dance along. The reader does not have to use their imagination to picture the characters or setting. The characters never developed in to real people for me. I was given a photo of the physical setting instead of the water-color painting I had hoped for. I know this book will generate a lively discussion in my group.… (more)
LibraryThing member vanjr
I felt this book had more of a conclusion than Driftless-the first Rhodes book I read (found an autographed copy in Prairie Lights bookstore). The ends were tied up nicely. The book explores some topics and ideas that make a prude like myself a little uncomfortable but it is handled subtly and there is nothing explicit in this book. I am sure to go read David Rhodes pre accident books eventually.… (more)
LibraryThing member cherybear
So good. I wasn't sure about some of the odd happenings, but stick with it, it will all become all right in the end. Love and families are complicated, and this book is no exception. Throw in some Wisconsin names and places and it just feels right.




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