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Canada by Richard Ford
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Canada

by Richard Ford

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Read as audio book - in French.
I waited and waited. To find the point in the book. It didn't come. It's a litany of seemingly unconnected, uninteresting episodes. What is it about these killings? And the fuss they make about the robbery?
Most ironically, the "Remerciements" at the end seem to try to revaluate the book, as though by listing and praising dozens of people the reader would finally acknowledge that it's big.
At least it proves that I tried til the end!
  Kindlegohome | Jul 10, 2015 |
“Canada” is a meditation. Like life on the 49th parallel, it is at times bleak but also majestic in scope. It is a story of youth represented by summer below the 49th in Great Falls, Montana and growth represented by winter above the 49th.

As the story opens we are told from the beginning that Dell Parson’s parents have committed a bank robbery, been jailed, his mother has committed suicide and he and his sister have been left to fend mostly for themselves and to find their way in the world without help from their parents.

The Parson’s are an Air Force family. Their father a debonair southern charmer is a Captain in the USAF. Their mother, the daughter of Polish immigrants raised in Tacoma, Washington is everything their father is not – dark, dour and reserved. Their one commonality is the love they have for their daughter Berner and their son Dell. Ultimately, due to the character weaknesses in both parents and the inability to support their family, a bank robbery is committed. From the planning or lack of, until the act itself, we know that this endeavor has no chance of succeeding.

The story before the robbery, unfolds in the setting of Great Falls, Montana in 1960. It is an examination of small town life; what it means to be an American and the role of the white man and his relationships in shaping the plight of the Native American’s in the region. It has a triangle of race relations between a corrupt African American Pullman porter, local Native American cattle rustlers and Capt. Parson’s running a meat scam that carried over from his time in the USAF.

The story after the robbery speaks briefly to the fall out and dissolution of the family but more importantly focuses on Dell, His twin sister Berner leaves to start her own life and it is not until the very end of the book that we discover what road she traveled and where she ends up. We do know that she is headed to San Francisco in an attempt to reunite with a boyfriend she had in Great Falls.

Dell is taken to Canada. This occurs because of an arrangement Dell’s mother makes with an acquaintance. Once there, Dell is more or less provided with a job, very rudimentary accommodations and left to fend for himself. Throughout the book, Dell’s interest in chess is almost an allegory of how to survive in life. Sacrifices have to be made in order to succeed and like chess, the game of life cannot be rushed or fast forwarded in order to achieve the end game.

This is not a book for readers who need action in order to hold their interest. The story is told in some detail through the eyes of a fifteen year old boy. It includes all the missed cues and misunderstandings of youth and the slow realizations of what is happening as a child is forced to grow up quickly. In that sense, the book is very much a meditation. It is somewhat poetic and the beauty is in the stark detail.

This is the first book that I have read by Richard Ford but from other things I have read about this author this slow, melodic, poetic way of storytelling is a signature of Ford’s. If you can allow yourself to take the time and appreciate the slow pace of this book, you will definitely enjoy it. I did and I look forward to reading other works by this author. ( )
  ozzieslim | Jun 15, 2015 |
First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”

From that very first line, you know that this is not going to be the typical coming of age story.

Dell Parsons and his fraternal twin sister, Berner, live with their parents in Great Falls, Montana. They had moved around quite a bit and so don't have many ties or friendships within their community. At sixteen Dell is a member of the school's chess club and considers beekeeping as a hobby. Berner has a boyfriend. Their mother teaches at a nearby school.

But then their father gets entangled in a shady scheme and when it goes wrong, he decides that the only way to pay off the bad guys and end the death threats is to rob a bank. When the kids' mother refuses to let her son drive the getaway car, she also becomes part of the scheme.

It doesn't end well. Both parents disappear into the prison system and the teenaged Berner and Dell are left alone. Berner runs away, heading for the Coast rather than risking being in the juvenile system. Dell is spirited away to Canada and lives an independent life supposedly under the non-watchful eye of his mother's friend's brother – a secretive, non-communicative man with an incident buried in his past that will drag Dell into more of the same, including, finally, the murders mentioned in the novel's first sentence.

The story is told by the 66 year old Dell, about to retire. He relates his life lessons: Other people's choices may shatter your current life in an instant, but you don't have to be defined by them. The people who do best in life are the ones who overcome loss and move onward.

This is not a fast paced crime story and there aren't any spoilers in this book. Throughout the novel we are teased with upcoming information from a later part of the tale, just as we are in the first sentence. This was an interesting way of telling the story – forward flashes, giving hints and bits of events to come throughout the narrative. Instead of being 'spoilers' however, they drew me on, eager to see up close events glimpsed briefly from a distance, like a mountain range seen distantly at the edge of the Big Sky's prairie horizon. ( )
  streamsong | May 22, 2015 |
Excellent coming of age book. So fabulous ( )
  shazjhb | Apr 11, 2015 |
After hesitating to try it at all (comparisons of Ford to John Updike really put me off), and then being disinfected* by some style issues in the first few chapters, I found myself totally engrossed with this novel, in which Dell Parsons, from a perspective of 50 years hence, tells us about a presumably formative period of his life--the year he was almost 16, when his parents, by stupidly attempting to rob a bank, effectively abandoned Dell and his twin sister, Berner. In order to prevent her children's ending up in the hands of the juvenile authorities in the event of her arrest (which she seems to have had wits enough to realize was inevitable), Mrs. Parsons arranged for a friend to spirit them away to Canada where presumably they could start life over without the inconvenient baggage of convicted bank robbers for parents. Berner had other ideas, but Dell ended up under the dubious protection of a big fish in the mighty small pond of Fort Royal, Saskatchewan, a place where nothing much happened other that goose hunting, and where he had plenty of time to ponder questions that had already started to bother him: does a man's character show in his face? are you destined to be who you become by some fundamental element of your makeup? does it really matter what happens to you, or will you become your true self regardless? It's a quiet journey Dell takes, despite a bit of violence here and there, and ultimately he believes he ended up precisely where he would have, had his parents gone on with their "ordinary" lives, sent him to college and never dreamed of robbing a bank or sending him off to be fostered by strangers in a strange land. I'm not sure when I stopped minding Ford's style, or if he dropped the awkward quirks that broke my reading stride early on, but by page 75 of so, I was just caught in the story, and that part of my brain that is aware of the author was sound asleep in a corner somewhere. I'm docking the novel 1/2 a star for the rocky start, although that may have been my own fault. I am very glad to have made Richard Ford's acquaintance, and am happy to say I find him much more in affinity with John Irving (Last Night in Twisted River came to mind) than with Updike.

*cf Bucky Katt

Review written March 2015 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Apr 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Willa Cather once wrote that “a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.” By that measure, and any other, Richard Ford is doing his very best in his extraordinary new novel, “Canada,” his first book since “The Lay of the Land” six years ago. Here, Ford is clearly writing within the range and character of his deepest sympathies — in this case, from the point of view of an abandoned 15-year-old boy — and he’s doing it with a level of linguistic mastery that is rivaled by few, if any, in American letters today.

...it is a masterwork by one of our finest writers working at the top of his form.
 
...his [Richard Ford's] philosophy is best summed up by the wisdom he passes on to the students in his writing class, which manages to be both matter-of-fact and poetic: "I believe in what you see being most of what there is… and that life's passed on to us empty. So, while significance weighs heavy, that's the most it does. Hidden meaning is all but absent."

Perhaps that is the abiding subject of all Richard Ford's work. Here, though it is broached by way of some uncharacteristically violent interludes, it resounds with a newfound clarity. A surprisingly different kind of great Richard Ford novel, then, and one that casts its spell very slowly and with a steady cumulative power.
 
Canada is a superlatively good book, richly imagined and beautifully fashioned. Although it is too early to do so, one is tempted to acclaim it a masterpiece. It catches movingly the grinding loneliness at the heart of American life – of life anywhere. As the narrative makes its measured progress, the sadness steadily accumulates, a weightless silt that gets under the eyelids. The final encounter at the close of the book between Dell and Berner is one of the most tenderly drawn scenes in modern literature, and could only have been written by a writer of Richard Ford's empathy, insight and technical mastery.
 
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First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.
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Book description
When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons' parents rob a bank, his sense of a happy, knowable life is forever shattered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life across a threshold that can never be uncrossed. His parent's arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to better life. There, afloat on a prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Authur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American, whose suave reserve makes a dark and violent nature. Undone by the calamity of his parents' robbery and arrest, Dell struggles under the vast prairie sky to remake himself and define the adults he thought he knew and loved. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness. (ARC)
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In 1956, Dell Parsons' family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did after the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Their mother Neeva - shy, artistic - was alienated from their father's small-town world. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that Dell's parents decided to rob the bank. They weren't reckless people. In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across Montana, his life hurtles towards the unknown; a hotel in a deserted town, the violent and enigmatic Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself. But, as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of a border.… (more)

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