Reader reviews for Continental Drift

You certainly cannot label this novel a "feel-good book." Russell Banks once again plumbs the depths of man's soul and his struggle (usually fruitless) to obtain a certain moral certainty in his life. The story starts off just before Christmas in New Hampshire and ends in a dingy back alley in the Haitian section of Miami. Another great novel by one of my favorite writers.
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I still love Russell Banks, but this story didn't get me as excited as his other work. It wasn't just that he kept jumping between two different stories, but that they were told in such different ways. Bob Dubois is written with Banks' usual eye for telling details, but the story of Vanise and the other Haitians is told in a much more objective fashion. I never felt as though I knew their story as intimately as Bob's, as though they were an allegory, and their individual identities were less important than those of Bob and his family.
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As [Cloudsplitter] ranks somewhere in my top 25 books and I thought [The Sweet Hereafter] was fairly decent as well, I really tried to like this book. It is the story of the Everyman "Bob" in his early 30s, who, disappointed with his prosaic life, uproots his family and tries to replant them in Florida. Bob sees Florida as a place of affluence and abundance - the men rich, the women exotic, the boats fast, and the scenery bursting with oleander and orange blossoms. But one mistake rapidly follows another, and Bob begins to drown in the cumulative weight of his failures. The story is told in parallel with that of a woman struggling to make the journey from Haiti to Florida. This portion should have made the book more interesting, but her story suffers from a surfeit of voodoo, which I found to be a major distraction. Every last man in [Continental Drift] is self-loathing, weak and a disappointment, and as a result, so was the novel.
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Really good book. Depressing, but brilliantly written. I've always liked Russell Banks but somehow missed this one, which was his first commercial success.
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one of my favourite novels - it just blew me away when i first read it over Christmas 1996...it took almost half a year to read in 2005 between my other reading but it was more that worth it.
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Russell Banks really knows how to tell a good story. On the surface, it's about Bob Dubois and his downward spiral. Bob is a New Hampshire man who seems to have it all: a wife, two kids, a decent job, a house, a boat to take out on the weekends and even a girlfriend on the side. His problem: greed. He is a man who compares himself too often to the people around him: his brother, his best friend. He doesn't let go of grudges or jealousies all that easily. Feeling like the man who has nothing to lose, he gives up everything to move to Florida for a "fresh start." His tale is just the vessel for Banks to describe a society fueled by the overwhelming need for more and more. Excess is not enough. Bob soon learns the meaning of "good enough" when his life spins out of control.
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Continental Drift, like many of Banks' books, starts with his main character(s) somewhere in midlife and having been pretty much beaten down, usually by forces beyond their control. In Continental Drift, Bob, a small town New Englander, does not know how to cope with the frustration of his life. His only outlet is a local bimbo he occasionally hits on in a bar.The other character, a Haitian women named Vanise, is probably the more remarkable. Like Bob, she's been beaten down, but the obstacles she faces are not merely boredom and a lack of satisfaction; her obstacles threaten her physical and spiritual existence.In the background is Bob's wife who seems simply to endure, but it soon becomes apparent that, while Bob flounders through his life, she is the one with strength.The two begin their separate journeys to Florida, where they believe they realize salvation.It doesn't happen. Though both show incredible resilience (she more than he), it seems that each time there looks to be a chance of rising above their respective lots, they get beaten down again.There are points in the book where you wonder "how much more can he/she take?" Then your read another chapter and say "jeez...they can take a lot more".
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Maybe it's just me, but I really liked this book. I could relate to Bob's decision to make a new start in Florida. How many people in dead-end jobs, fighting the cold & snow, and just making it from one paycheck to the next haven't engaged in that fantasy? Most of us blunder on, not wanting to risk our job's benefits (like health insurance), or are reluctant to sever the ties that bind us to a place, while we just hope that things will get better. Bob chooses to go with a dream, and is led to believe, by his brother who appears to be successful, that by doing so, things will get better. When catastrophe shows him just who his brother really is, he doesn't give up, but takes the helping hand of his best friend, still hoping to make his life better. That Ave isn't really the man he appears to be either, is something that Bob learns way too late, when he's in so deep, he must do something that is aberrant to the man he is. Only after the horrifying occurrence that ensues is Bob ready to give up & and go back to the life he left - but even then, he still tries to do something that will begin to redeem himself to himself.Vanise is a passive character, someone to whom "things happen". Although I sympathize with her & the hideous ordeals that she went through, it was her nephew, Claude, that had the courage to try to make a change in their lives. I feel like this novel is about the ways in which we never really know another person. At least, not until the "chips are down". None of the characters could depend on one another. It was a great illustration of how we are each alone in this world and can only control what we ourselves do. At the end of the day, Bob attempted to control what became of his ill-gotten gains and to attempt to recover his integrity. Oh, and by the way, I thought that the voodoo rituals were pretty amazing, but then I've always been intrigued by other cultures.
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