Picks and Pans Review: The Driftless Area

UPDATED 08/21/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/21/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Tom Drury

Pierre Hunter lives by one simple rule: "Why make plans when things are going to happen the way they're supposed to?" Living alone in rural Shale, Iowa, where he tends bar and hunts with friends, the 24-year-old might expect to live a long, uneventful life. Instead, as a new year begins, he wanders into a party and is arrested for trespassing. Soon afterward he falls through thin ice while skating and is rescued by the mysterious, sumptuously named Stella Rosmarin. Their inevitable—exactly the right word, as you'll learn—affair sets in motion a chain of wild events that ends in murder and the triumph of love. Drury's affection for Shale's oddballs (one memorializes significant happenings with hilariously bad poetry) and smart, funny dialogue make this hypnotic novel—his fourth—uniquely appealing. And if you happen to enjoy a good existentialist argument, there's that too.

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