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Canada by Richard Ford


by Richard Ford

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Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
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 |
It is a very interesting story about a short part of a man's life when he was 15 years old and how this had influenced his whole life. The events are told by himself 50 years. The story is set in three parts whereas the first part is the longest and is set in the USA. Therefore I had some difficulties to make a link to its title. Part two and three are mostly set in Cananda. In the first part he describes his family and the his parent's bank robbery. It is fascinating how detailed he is telling the incident. I got a very good feeling about all family members and the strong bond between him and his twin sister. In the second part he arrived in Cananda where he had to learn being on his own and how greenly he was. In the third part he is telling us how he is living today, what he is doing and what is important for him. It's also how he gets confronted with his past.
The story is carefully written with a lot of love for all characters. ( )
  Ameise1 | Mar 25, 2015 |
a story of a boy who survives the foolish acts of adults. His parents rob a bank and are arrested, his sister runs away and his mother has arranged that he is taken to Canada to live with unreliable strangers, completely alone. This is not giving anything away, the reader always knows because the boy, Del, tells you. The setting is 1960. I really had a hard time believing some of this story but then, maybe. Del was a twin. He wanted to go to school. He had interests such as bee keeping. He was a good kid. What really held me was the narration. Something about Del's voice was very compelling. It's a story that looks at marginalized life, breakdown of family and the effects of crime on the children. ( )
  Kristelh | Mar 23, 2015 |
Richard Ford is one of my favorite authors. No American male should go through life without reading the Harry Bascombe trilogy. This novel, like his earlier one Wildlife, is a reflective piece where the narrator looks back at his life. Now a days as we have the ability to download a sample of the novel, I was pretty much hooked by the first sentence. "First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first." The book goes on to detail how the narrator (Dell) and his sister moved around during their earlier years, children of a retired military man in the 60's. His father's inability to find work led him to develop a scheme of selling meat, slaughtered by the Cree Indians and sold to the railroad. He was the middleman and the one stuck in the middle when the deal went south. Soon after that Dell and his sister's life goes south as well as a failed bank robbery leaves them as virtual orphans. The narrative then moves into Dell's experience in Canada, living with an eccentric brother of his mother's friend. It is a harsh experience, but Dell manages to reflect how to adjust to the changes life throws at you.
"The world doesn’t usually think about bank robbers as having children — though plenty must. But the children’s story — which mine and my sister’s is — is ours to weigh and apportion and judge as we see fit. . . . Ruskin wrote that composition is the arrangement of unequal things. Which means it’s for the composer to determine what’s equal to what, and what matters more and what can be set to the side of life’s hurtling passage onward.” This is an important theme in the novel, and one that is appropriate to suit some of the events in my life right now - the idea of tolerating loss well.
I would recommend this book to others. If you are new to Richard Ford , start at the Sportswriter. the Harry Bascombe books, like Updike's Rabbit novels, are essential American reading experiences. ( )
  novelcommentary | Mar 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (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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