SearchBeat Home
Hot Topics: family & kids | fashion | federal gov't | games | genealogy | history | movies | repairs | traffic | weather | Featured Sites | SITE MAP |

 Search Beat > Shopping > Publications > Books > Featured Titles > Continental Drift by Russell Banks

Shopping and Product Search for
Advanced Search  

books and such...
Continental Drift
by Russell Banks

Paperback - 384 pages (June 2000)
Harperperennial Library; ISBN: 0060956739

The Nation, James Marcus
Early in Continental Drift, Russell Banks compares the migrations of humanity to those of the elements: tides, winds, whole landmasses making their well-mapped, decorous circuit of the planet. One of the marvels of this book is the way it combines such an aerial perspective with particular, earthbound lives. Seen from ground level--the vantage point of most lives--this perpetual exodus has little of the bland and unimpeachable brutality of natural disaster. Instead, it can look heroic--a dogged determination to cheat entropy and death for as long as possible. This persistence, "an old-fashioned, biblical kind of heroism," powers the migratory lives in Continental Drift and makes even their eventual wreckage a source of celebration.

Engrossing and visionary, comic and heartbreaking, Continental Drift tells the story of two people from different worlds moving slowly, yet inevitably toward each other as they search for a better life. It is set in the late seventies and early eighties, when America is plagued with recession, unemployment, and unprecedented crime. It is also the dawn of eighties' materialism--when it seems that the opportunity to make a quick buck is no longer the privilege of the rich alone. Workers, immigrants, even the urban poor begin to believe that wealth is within their grasp. Bob DuBois believes it too. Literally overnight he decides to leave his seemingly dead-end existence in New Hampshire and move his family to Florida, a place whose climate, population, and culture are at odds with the world Bob has known all his life. For Haitian Vanise Dorsinvilles, Florida is also the land of opportunity. Like Bob, she realizes that there is nothing for her at home--and everything awaiting her at the end of her journey. With fewer possessions, and a far more perilous route, Vanise makes her desperate way north and east, enduring rape, forced labor, betrayal, near-drowning, and ultimately the loss of her child and her nephew. In his portrait of contemporary America, Russell Banks focuses on two obscure lives driven by yearning, spiritual strength, and the hope for salvation. Caught up in the currents of their desire, Bob and Vanise drift helplessly from one predicament to another. Without money, neither feels capable of changing the course their lives have taken. Why can't these two people find a better life in Florida? They are both good, honest, and hardworking; that should be enough in the fabled land of opportunity. But as Banks shows us, other, stronger forces are at work. Racial prejudice, economic disparity, religious and social conventions, and most of all greed stand in the way of Bob's and Vanise's dreams. In the end, Bob dies in a back alley of Miami's "Little Haiti," and his wife and children return to New Hampshire destined for a life not much different from the one they tried to escape in the first place. Vanise, having lost what little she had, is now bereft of even her soul--she may as well be dead. Both lives, wasted, disappear from view, as the world and others move forward to take their place. It is up to us, Banks implies at the end of this devastating novel, not only to acknowledge the experiences of these characters, but to make sense of the seemingly inexorable drift of their lives and grieve their deaths.


articles and reviews


February 27, 1985
By Michiko Kakutani

''THIS is an American story of the late 20th century,'' writes Russell Banks in the Faulknerian invocation that opens ''Continental Drift,'' and this remarkable novel goes on to fulfill that ambitious introduction - in the largest sense. Sweeping in narrative and vivid in its depiction of fragmented, fragmenting lives, ''Continental Drift'' accelerates like a fast, sleek railroad train to its swift conclusion, but Mr. Banks's sure command of plot proves to be only one of many novelistic tools employed in the service of a larger vision.

Like Graham Greene and Robert Stone, Mr. Banks is concerned with moral ambiguities and their consequences on ordinary lives, and his tale of how one man named Bob Dubois went in search of a better life and got in over his head becomes, at once, a visionary epic about innocence and evil and a shattering dissection of contemporary American life.

At 30, Bob Dubois has a wife whom he loves, two daughters and another child on the way. All his life, he's lived in Catamount, N. H., and since high school he's worked as a repairman for the Abenaki Oil Company. ''He stays honest, he doesn't sneak copper tubing or tools into his car at night, he doesn't put in for time he didn't work, he doesn't drink on the job.'' He owns a run-down duplex in a working-class neighborhood, a 13-foot Boston whaler he built from a kit, and a battered Chevrolet station wagon, and he owes the local savings and loan - for the house, the boat and the car - a little over $22,000. ''We have a good life. We do,'' his wife, Elaine, keeps telling him. [read more]


Search for "Russell Banks" on
All the Web -  AltaVista -  Direct Hit -  Goto -  Infoseek -  LookSmart -  Webcrawler -  Yahoo!

Sponsored Links

Featured Topics
Real Boys' Voices by William S. Pollack, Ph.D.

Bowling Alone - The Collapse And Revival Of American Community by Robert Putnam - Read a short introduction and his fascinating Chapter 1.

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley

"Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje - With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language.

"Blessings" by Avrum Organick - "Human nature and nature in all its forms are tenderly portrayed by the writer, Avrum Organick in this love story. Against the backdrop of the breathtaking beauty of the West - Navajo Land..."

"White Teeth - A Novel" by Zadie Smith - Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families.

Book Resources

Regional Travel Books

International Fiction

By Genre Featured Authors and Interviews
South Asian Books


Site Sponsors


 Site Index: # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Arts/Entertainment | Autos | Books | Business | Colleges | Computers | Health | Home/Garden | Jobs | Kids/Teens
Music | News/Media | Recreation | Reference | Regional | Science | Shopping | Society | Sports | Travel | World

| Feedback
| Contact us | Join our mailing list | Our Story | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions
Copyright © 1997-2019 SearchBeat, All Rights Reserved