Critical Context

A writer in the realist tradition, Banks views the novel as the best forum for depicting and critiquing the social and moral uncertainties of contemporary society. Bob DuBois is reminiscent of many of Banks’s other male literary characters: working-class, poor, often ignorant New Englanders (Banks also grew up in small-town New Hampshire) who feel trapped by their environments or resigned to their narrow lives. Yet as in some of Banks’s other fictions, such as Success Stories (1986) and The Sweet Hereafter (1992), it is often only through tragedy and trauma that these ordinary people find a redeeming wisdom or sense of hopefulness for their lives.

Banks’s fiction has been compared to that of other American social realist writers, especially Robert Stone, Raymond Carver, and Bobbie Ann Mason, although the visionary, epic-like expanse of Continental Drift and its moralistic overtones separate it from the minimalist style of some of Banks’s peers. It is this huge scope that distinguishes Banks’s novel—his ability to capture the terrible realities of contemporary American life as a whole while still remaining acutely personal and emotional.