Continental Drift

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Perhaps the single most insightful novel written by a Euro-American male writer in response to the growing awareness of racial and sexual oppression, CONTINENTAL DRIFT marks Russell Bank’s emergence as an important voice in mainstream fiction. Known primarily for his experimental fiction, Bank’s here employs a much more accessible style--derived in large part from Afro-American oral storytelling traditions--tempering his self-conscious speculation on the nature of fiction with more traditional techniques of characterization and plot.

The central characters are Bob Dubois, a thirty-year-old repairman from a small town in New Hampshire, and Vanise Dorsinville, a refugee from Haiti. These two central characters, accompanied by various family members, drift not quite aimlessly toward Florida. On the surface, Bob’s pervasive, but never quite specific, dissatisfaction with American middle-class life contrasts sharply with Vanise’s dogged determination to reach the United States, where even the bottom rungs of the economic ladder seem preferable to the oppression which has driven her from Haiti. On deeper levels, however, Banks asserts a profound connection between Bob and Vanise, neither of whom can directly confront or alter the forces moving them inexorably toward a sequence of tragic encounters.

Typified by Banks’s convincing depiction of Vanise’s reliance on the voodoo “loa” as a source of strength, the novel is noteworthy for...

(The entire section is 402 words.)