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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306

In Continental Draft, Russell Banks uses the geological term as a metaphor for social alienation. Banks offers the stories of two very different characters whose lives brutally collide after one is literally left adrift at sea. One protagonist is a flinty yet dissolute New Englander—a type of character about whom Banks often writes. When Bob DuBois has trouble navigating the challenges of his native New Hampshire, he heads south with his wife and children, hoping to improve their chances in Florida. The other main character, Vanise Dorsinville, leaves truly dire straits in Haiti on a fragile craft heading for America. Although Bob arrives at his initial destination, things do not go as planned. For Vanise, her baby son, and her nephew, shipwreck and betrayal land them on a small Atlantic island rather than the mainland; her life actually changes for the worse.

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Bob begins by realizing his plan to help his brother, Eddie, run his liquor store. Bob’s tendency to stray does not change in the new scene, and he starts another affair. During a robbery attempt at the store, Bob shoots and kills the thief. Although it is ruled justifiable, the incident rattles him and he moves farther south to the Florida Keys. Working on a charter boat with his friend Avery, he soon realizes that Avery is smuggling drugs as well as undocumented immigrants from Haiti. Vanise and her family are aboard when the Coast Guard stops his boat. The mate panics and throws the passengers overboard, and Bob does nothing to prevent him.

The tragedy grotesquely worsens as only Vanise survives. Bob somehow finds her with a relative in Miami and tries to return the money they had paid for safe passage. Not only is his gesture rejected, as Vanise wants no blood money, but he is killed by a gang.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1159

Bob Dubois has just gotten paid and heads for a beer in his home town of Catamount, New Hampshire, on a snowy Friday evening just before Christmas. After he drinks his beer, he intends to buy his young daughter a set of figure skates. Though self-reflection is not part of Bob’s nature, he feels a building frustration with his life. He cheats on his wife and feels remorseful, especially when his infidelity leads him to be too late to buy the skates for his daughter. Bob’s unhappiness with his life boils over, and he smashes out all the windows in his car. Finally home, he collapses with his wife Elaine. They decide to try to improve their lives by moving to Florida, where Bob’s brother Eddie lives.

Vanise Dorsinville lives in a small village in Haiti. As a hurricane rages, her family worries about Vanise’s young nephew Claude, who is not at home. When the skies calm, he returns, carrying a ham. When he acknowledges looting it from an overturned truck, they become frightened that Claude will be arrested. The family decides that Vanise should take the boy to Miami, where his father lives.

Eddie arranges a job for Bob running a liquor store. Eddie insists that Bob begin carrying a gun to work, which he can then leave behind the counter. At first Bob is happy with the changes in his life, and he takes a more active interest in his children. Bob is excited to learn that Elaine is carrying their third child.

Everything changes when Bob meets Marguerite Dill, an attractive African American woman who is the daughter of George, the part-time helper at the store. Bob flirts with Marguerite, and they eventually begin a sexual relationship. Late one night, after spending time with Marguerite, Bob interrupts two African American men robbing the store. Holding a shotgun to Bob, one man demands that Bob hand over the night deposit. In a moment of distraction, Bob gets the pistol from behind the counter and shoots...

(The entire section contains 1465 words.)

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