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Canada by Richard Ford


by Richard Ford

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A heavy mantle of foreboding hangs over much of the action of Canada, Richard Ford's masterful new novel. This is the story of Dell Parsons, who in 1960 is fifteen and growing up with his mother and father and twin sister Berner in Great Falls, Montana when the family unit is abruptly blown apart in the wake of an ill-planned and ineptly executed bank robbery committed by their parents. After their parents are arrested the resentful Berner simply walks away, apparently to forge a life for herself elsewhere. Dell waits in the passive fashion that we learn is habitual to him, and is eventually rescued by a friend of his mother, who had agreed to take both children to Canada to live with her brother in rural Saskatchewan, a place that in Ford's vision is bleak and harrowing and smouldering with repressed violence. Dell spends his time in Saskatchewan closely observing the strange people around him, keeping his emotions in check and committing himself to nothing, while trying to reinvent himself--he does not want the fact that he is the son of bank robbers to define his life. It turns out that the man into whose care he has been delivered, Arthur Remlinger, has spent years doing the same thing: struggling to emerge from the shadow of a rash act of violence committed by the passionate and idealistic youth he used to be. As Remlinger's past slowly catches up with him, we wait with Dell to see what Remlinger will do when pushed to the wall. Much of the novel explores how past acts contribute to the person we become in the present, the impossibility of denying these acts, the inescapable consequences and the need for acceptance. It is also a novel about crossing borders, physical and moral. The narrative, first person from Dell's perspective, is dark and taut, crowded with untrustworthy characters all keeping an eye on each other and filled with astute observations on human behaviour. The brief final section shows us Dell and Berner reunited fifty years after the main action, each having responded in his and her own way to their parent's fateful decision. This is a wise and profound work of fiction that you will not soon forget. ( )
  icolford | Mar 18, 2014 |
Superb first section. I still need to finish it. ( )
  jconnell | Mar 9, 2014 |
This book opens with two very provocative sentences, "First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later". But if you think you will be reading a pot boiler, a thriller, you will be wrong. (It is a page turner though.) It is the story of a tragedy, of a rupture in the normal fabric of life. Read it for the writing. The prose is lean and spare and beautiful. The sense of place evokes the endless expanse of the prairie in the midwest of the U.S. and the desolation of those prairies moving north into Canada. It speaks of the innocence and compassion that only a child can find when confronted with the unimaginable. There is adventure, but this is a somber book. It's terribly rewarding though and I recommend it. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
This book opens with two very provocative sentences, "First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later". But if you think you will be reading a pot boiler, a thriller, you will be wrong. (It is a page turner though.) It is the story of a tragedy, of a rupture in the normal fabric of life. Read it for the writing. The prose is lean and spare and beautiful. The sense of place evokes the endless expanse of the prairie in the midwest of the U.S. and the desolation of those prairies moving north into Canada. It speaks of the innocence and compassion that only a child can find when confronted with the unimaginable. There is adventure, but this is a somber book. It's terribly rewarding though and I recommend it. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
The Short of It:

The anatomy of a crime, as told by one of the characters most affected by it.

The Rest of It:

"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." (First lines of Canada)

Those opening lines set the stage for Dell’s story. His parents, struggling to make a life for themselves in Great Falls, Montana, rob a bank after getting involved in an illegal business deal. Their hope, is to pay off their debt and begin again. What Bev Parsons does not know, is that his wife Neeva sees this criminal act as a way to escape a lifetime with the man she married. Dell and his sister Berner are left to a family friend who has plans to get them out of the country. But as twins, and only fifteen, they are not sure what to make of the things happening around them.

What a book. I’ve never read Richard Ford before but when my book club picked it for January I had to give it a try. It’s not a book a reader can love. The story is too bleak for that, but I did appreciate the languid writing. Some of the members in the group compared Ford to Richard Russo and I agree. His writing reminded me a lot of Russo.

Many of the details shared are “day in the life” type details but at the same time, Ford uses foreshadowing to string the reader along. It works. I read these 400+ pages in two sittings. Telling the story from Dell’s sheltered perspective is somewhat limiting at times, but his wide-eyed wonder at the things going on around him made him vulnerable which lent the story a fragile, precarious quality.

What I most enjoyed, is the discussion that took place afterward. It’s hard to imagine what drives people to do the things they do, but it was fun to discuss it. Dell’s parents were never normal, in the traditional sense of the word. They kept their kids sheltered, were not successful in any way and tried to remain under the radar. Living in that small town, they managed to avoid most of their neighbors and didn’t seem to know how to interact with the people around them, or each other. This should have helped them in the end, but it’s really what did them in.

Ford can tell a tale and his sense of place is strong here. I enjoyed his style of writing so much, that I will be sure to seek out his other books. Have you read any of his books?

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Jan 14, 2014 |
Reviews of this book are mixed - from those who call it boring and unrealistic to those who hale it as a masterpiece. My review would be somewhere between these two positions. I loved this book for its language, for its characters and for its overall storyline. I did have trouble with certain parts of the book (mainly those occurring immediately following the arrest of Dell's parents) but overall I read this book in astonishment at the author's skill. ( )
  PennyAnne | Jan 1, 2014 |
I thought this story of a young man's life, especially after his parents' robbery, was both very interesting and well written. Richard Ford writes character well, and also provides intelligent philosophy. ( )
  suesbooks | Nov 28, 2013 |
This is one of those literary novels that mostly makes you think the author's done better work in the past. Like some of the later John Irving novels I've read it's not completely awful, but there isn't much impact to it.

Basically in 1960 Dell Parson's parents rob a bank in North Dakota to pay off some Native Americans. The most implausible part is that no one takes the kids when the parents are arrested; they're just left there to fend for themselves even though they're 15. I don't think that would happen even in 1960 in a small Montana town. Most likely they'd have gone to the police station until a social worker could take them. But anyway, the book is called Canada because Dell ends up in Saskatchewan, in an even worse town than the one in Montana.

The idea of fleeing to Canada would have had a lot more impact back in 1968 or so with the Vietnam War in full swing and people looking to avoid the draft. In 2013 it comes off as quaint.

It's one of those novels too where the author uses a narrator who is probably the least interesting character in the book. This only works when the characters around that character are far more interesting, which is just not the case here.

Anyway, for what it is the book is well written, but it really felt to me like a book out of time.

That is all. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
Really well written book but the story is just not that entertaining. If the author writes other books they will be on my list to read but I can't enthusiastically recommend this one. ( )
  bwkramer | Nov 19, 2013 |
I was on the selection committee of a bi-country "real world" book group, and one of the two books that my fellow committee members and I were determined to push through the overly complicated process for picking the following year's reading list was Richard Ford's "Canada". We were so resolute, in fact, that we were willing to split off from our European counterparts if "Canada" did not make the final cut. (In fact, the group did break up, but it was over a book that we *had* to read, which proves, I suppose, that loathing a title choice is an even more powerful force that anticipating a hyped-up book; there's a moral in there somewhere if you want to find it.) I loved the [b:The Sportswriter|40722|The Sportswriter|Richard Ford|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327936345s/40722.jpg|14675] trilogy and the reviews for Ford's latest book were laudatory. I was sure that our book group brinkmanship would be worth it.

The novel starts off with a bang, as all the reviews will tell you. You know there's going to be a bank robbery, which is always an interesting prospect. And I liked the depiction of Dell Parsons. I have a son almost the same age, who is also a bit diffident and self-contained, but with an inner core of toughness, just like the main character. (I actually started the novel as an audio while I was walking with my son, and when Dell became obsessed with the idea of keeping bees, I snapped off my book and asked my son what he thought about having his own personal beehive; he immediately got excited, as I knew he would be.) But this novel, which I wanted to love, and was willing to fight for, turned sour for me very quickly. It was a terrible disappointment in so many ways.

I tend to write reviews mostly in response to my own experience of the world; there's a lot of great analysis here on GR, and if someone else had all ready made the points that I would make, I don't really see the need for yet another review. Some other readers loathed this book as much as I did, and we did so for the same reasons. But deeper than my dislike of Ford's dreary, self-important posturings was the major stumbling block that I just couldn't accept the basic construct that Ford sets up. It just didn't work for me on so many levels.

First: his depiction of a military family. I just knew, after listening to Ford throwing in every tired cliche of the military (the socially isolated, the rootless, the peripatetic living practically out of suitcases,etc.etc.) that the author had been in the military just long enough to think that he knew the military, and to dislike, it too. Now negative portrayals of the military, when accurate, don't bother me in the slightest; in fact, I enjoy them. But Ford doesn't understand the military, not at all. (A writer doesn't have to have been in the military to get it; Tom Wolfe's [b:The Right Stuff|586472|The Right Stuff|Tom Wolfe|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1176047563s/586472.jpg|907221] portrays the accelerated nesting--the koa rocker-German cuckoo clock-Polish crockery jumble of furious unpacking--the usual military experience--extremely well.) We military people tend to carry an immense amount of stuff around with us like a snail with a shell; it's what we do to prove we've been around. So...it's highly outside the norm that a military officer's family would live such a stripped-down life; during my husband's career I met just a few--a very few--people with homes like that. It's not likely, but it IS possible.( It's also, quite frankly, the way a lazy writer who really doesn't much about the military would imagine such a lifestyle to encompass.)

It is also highly unlikely that the Parsons family would be so isolated within the Air Force itself, particularly in that time and place. I understand that the family was supposed to be eccentric, even dysfunctional, and that the mother thought she was supposed to be better than everyone else, that she didn't want the kids to mix with anyone. So...I accepted--with difficulty--this far-fetched scenario, too. The moment I just couldn't buy, however, the moment when Ford's cardboard miltary family came crashing down for me was when Dell's father stated that as Air Force brats they knew nothing about the world, or where they lived, and spent too much time indoors. What? WHAT? I don't know of any military parent anywhere who would think that, or say it. It's one of the things that makes the military life bearable, what EVERY military parent says to themselves, and to the kids, that moving from base to base every few years gives the kids to see more of the world than most civilian kids ever do. So I call BS on Ford's whole negative, erroneous, stereotypical views of the military, which I believe come from his own less than positive experiences.

There's another personal reason why I don't buy Ford's book. You see, one of my uncles by marriage robbed a bank, in the same region as Montana, during the same year that "Canada" is set. It's quite a story; both my youngest aunt and my older brother, who accompanied my grandparents on their journey to clean up the mess that their daughter had made of her life, felt compelled to tell me, the last time I talked to either of them, exactly what happened according to their point of view. My aunt, the third sister, had run off with a convicted felon whom my grandparents understandably despised (my mother's family was used to drama, as my own mother had eloped with a Brother of the Catholic Church to Las Vegas, but my aunt's spouse selection was too much for even them to accept) some years before my uncle's botched attempt at armed robbery. My aunt hadn't been heard from--at all--for the better part of a decade. Social services called my grandparents up when they hauled away my uncle and my aunt fell apart. Whether she had had a true nervous breakdown (my second aunt's opinion) or was just flakey and lazy and couldn't get her act together (my mother's opinion) is moot; the point is that someone called family members right away; they just didn't walk out the door and leave the kids all alone in the house, as Dell and Berner are left alone in the book. So no, I don't think Ford's plot twist is realistic, and that (and I'm not being spoilery here since the entire novel is a flashback) Dell's mother, who isn't estranged from her family, would entrust her kids to some near stranger, or that it is likely that the police wouldn't report what was going on immediately to social services. Of course, it could happen--most anything can happen--but when a writer resorts to that feeble excuse, he's just messing with the reader, and being rather contemptuous at that. I can only say that from my own personal experience the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

So, at this point of the novel I was doing a lot of eye-rolling, when I came upon *the scene*. You might know what I mean. Thank God it's not explicit but what the hell is this creepy, totally unneccesary, totally gratuitous depiction of incest doing in the book? Is this Ford's attempt to be edgy? Please. It's completely forced--pretty much like the entire novel--and seems utterly out of character for Dell.

Even with all my objections-the Air Force family by way of Mars, the preposterous unlikelihood of Dell and Berner being abandoned after their parents's arrest--I could have accepted the book. Maybe. I don't know every military family in the world, and thank God, I only have one uncle who robbed a bank in 1960 in the Upper Midwest. But deep down, I don't feel that Ford respects his reader. He repeats things. Over and over and over. Dell's father is tall and bombastic. His mother is dark and "ethnic" and superior. The making of every baloney sandwich is described in excruciating detail, and every piece of laundry flaps slow-mo on the clothesline. Ford connects the dots between every theme point he's making--there's some weird blather about the differences between the United States and Canada that's especially puzzling to this American with a Canadian mother--and underscores these lines again and again so that you, dear reader, will get the grand themes that the author is supposedly wrestling with and which you are too dim to understand on your own. It's as if Ford is afraid of letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions--which might be, in fact, be ones that the author doesn't want you to draw. So no, I didn't find the book a moving allegory on life, and the sins of the parents being visited on the children, blah, blah, blah. I found it a highly artificial, schematic work, by an author who makes the mistake of confusing grimness for profundity, and portentousness for insight. And you know what? It's just plain DULL. That's the worst sin of all.

My vote for the most over-rated book of 2012. ( )
  gaeta1 | Nov 9, 2013 |
Indeed this is a long coming of age story but I will miss Dell and how much he endured. October 2013 ( )
  eembooks | Oct 23, 2013 |
Ein Roman wie ein großer See. Man springt hinein, zieht ruhige Bahnen durchs Wasser und wird dann sanft hinausgespült, um sein Leben außerhalb weiterzuleben. Groß, ruhig, wunderschön. Eine Geschichte. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Ein Roman wie ein großer See. Man springt hinein, zieht ruhige Bahnen durchs Wasser und wird dann sanft hinausgespült, um sein Leben außerhalb weiterzuleben. Groß, ruhig, wunderschön. Eine Geschichte. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Ein Roman wie ein großer See. Man springt hinein, zieht ruhige Bahnen durchs Wasser und wird dann sanft hinausgespült, um sein Leben außerhalb weiterzuleben. Groß, ruhig, wunderschön. Eine Geschichte. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Ein Roman wie ein großer See. Man springt hinein, zieht ruhige Bahnen durchs Wasser und wird dann sanft hinausgespült, um sein Leben außerhalb weiterzuleben. Groß, ruhig, wunderschön. Eine Geschichte. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
This book takes us into the mind of a fifteen year old boy and his time spent in the wastelands of Canada after his parents have been sent to gaol for a bank robbery and he is left to be cared for by a friend of his mothers. He is sent to Canada to escape child welfare authorities. It is the story of his survival and his observations of the strange people he comes in contact with. I enjoyed it very much as it is told from the viewpoint of the grown up Del, at the age of 66 when he has just retired after a successful career as a schoolteacher. My only complaint is that I would have liked to know more of his life after he "got away" to the city and received an education, married and had a family, as I think it would have been difficult for him to adjust. ( )
  lesleynicol | Sep 16, 2013 |
A very reflective narrator. Too many words for the amount of story. ( )
1 vote climbingtree | Jul 26, 2013 |
A boy whose ill-matched parents decide to get out of a scrape by robbing a bank ends up in a strange limbo, working for a seemingly clever but totally self-centered and slightly mad American who runs a hotel in a remote part of Saskatchewan. It's a very interior story inside the head of an adolescent who is totally separated from everything that would give him a way forward. As always, the writing is hypnotically good and rather strange.
  bfister | Jul 19, 2013 |
The narrator, Dell, now 66 and retired, recalls the events of his 15th year, the year his parents robbed a bank and went to jail. He and his sister were left abandoned in their home. His fraternal twin sister, Berner, runs away, but Dell is driven from Great Falls, Montana, by his mother’s friend, north into Saskatchewan. He is left in the care of a older man who owns a hotel, and a Metis goose hunter guide and trapper, eventually witnesses a double murder. His voice is unusual, skeptical, commenting on the different ways that his life could have turned. He is especially interested in how decisions that are reckless and stupid seem reasonable at the time they are made. His father was in the Air Force, first as a bombadier in the Pacific in WWII, then a supply officer. He was involved in a fraudulent scheme at the Air Force base, involving Indians and stolen cattle, and when he cannot pay one of the Indians, the idea of the bank robbery is hatched. His wife is a Jewish intellectual out of place in Great Falls, but goes along with the bank robbery scheme, possibly to protect Dell from involvment, possibly to escape from her life. The writing flows easily, the characterizations are subtle and deft. I was glad for the last part, a sort of epilogue describing the later years of characters that I had come to care about. ( )
  neurodrew | Jul 8, 2013 |
Is a man born a bank robber? Is he born a murderer? And if not, at what point does he become a bank robber or a murderer, such that in describing him we might, rightly, note that his bank robbery or the murders he commits were there in him all along? That transition, the border between what might be and what is, fascinates the narrator of Canada as he looks back over 50 years to his life as a fifteen year old boy in Great Falls, Montana. Dell and his twin sister Berner are the children of Neeva and Bev Parsons, who, in the course of a very few days transform themselves from ineffectual parents to ineffectual bank robbers. Dell struggles to see where or when precisely the transformation took place. It is almost a metaphysical transformation, something abstract, yet with real consequences. Those consequences include further transformations for Dell and Berner and their flight from Great Falls – west for Berner on her own, and north to Canada for Dell where he will learn that having bank robbers as parents is not the worst thing that can (and does) happen to him.

Ford’s writing here is lean and awkward, like the boy in whose voice he recounts these events. Only later, when we realize that Dell is really narrating his story from his vantage point as a 65-year-old high school English teacher, do we begin to appreciate how subtle Ford’s narrative has been. In the first third of the novel Dell sounds like a stilted, backward, child, almost implausibly naïve. When does he himself transform into the man he will become? Is it when he crosses the practically non-existent border into Canada (these events take place in 1960)? Or does it take something more, something definite? At one point a character tells Dell, “Doing things for the right reasons is the key to Canada.” And that might be our cue. It is actions themselves that make things what they are. We see this in Dell’s fascination with the game of chess, whose rules he has studied and stratagems imaginatively exploited, but which he never gets to play. But it is in the playing, one move following another, that a game becomes what it is.

Canada draws deep on Ford’s Montana stories (e.g. Rock Springs) and in so doing sets a markedly different tone to his Frank Bascombe novels. Thoughtful and deliberate here, as against frenetically immediate there, one can only admire Ford’s range and mastery. I think this is a novel that bears rereading and that it will become more significant on each pass. And on that basis, I recommend it. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jul 4, 2013 |
I was aggravated by the continual delaying tactics of the narrative. Is it a style? I suppose it's a style. A writer must have an awfully big ego to believe that his readers are willing to follow him on every niggling segue. Far too much felt like empty padding. I forced myself to continue until halfway through Part Two, but reading this novel was such a chore. Usually when I'm not enjoying a book, I leave it on a park bench for someone else to have a try. This book got cracked in half and tossed in the recycling bin.
I still gave it 2 stars because there were excellent descriptions and character studies. ( )
1 vote brocade | Jun 23, 2013 |
a coming of age book, the teller of the story is a 15 year boy. of course is actually told by him when he is 66, he looks back and tries to use his 15 year voice. his is molded by two crimes, a bank robbery committed by his parents and a murder by a man that is responsible after his parents go to prison. the book is set in the 60s. ( )
  michaelbartley | Jun 22, 2013 |
This is not a history of Canada, though there are some interesting observations about the Canadian temperament and culture. The second half of the book takes place in Saskatchewan where our protagonist 15-year old Dell Parsons (the novel is told mainly in his voice), flees with the help of a friend of his mother’s, after his parents are arrested for robbing a bank in a very small town in North Dakota. His twin sister Berner was supposed to have gone to Canada too, but had already left on her own.

Bev Parsons and his wife Neeva never expected to become bank robbers, but they were ill-fated as a couple to start; Bev is a feckless, restless, unfocussed man who looks great but engages in petty fraud which gets him kicked out of the air force; he then gets himself into trouble with some tough characters whom he thinks he can control, but as Dell notes, “At the heart of schemes like this there’s always something unreasonable, the explanation of which is that human beings are involved.” Bev decides that robbing a bank to buy off these tough guys will solve all his problems, but the planning and execution of the robbery is laughably inept and both are arrested in short order.

Neeva married Bev because she was pregnant after a one-night fling and in so doing threw away every dream and expectation she had had about her life, and doesn’t have the strength of character needed to take action in the face of what she knows in her heart will not turn out well. It is a marriage in which the two gradually move further and further apart. There was nothing inevitable about the bank robbery and subsequent destruction of the family and the lives of Bev and Neeva. As Dell muses, looking back as an elderly man, if Neeva had followed her instincts, left Bev and taken Dell and Berner away with her, “each of them would’ve had a chance at a good life out in the wide world.” But the circumstances of life, time and place conspired against them. As Dell notes from later in life: “The prelude to very bad things can be ridiculous…but can also be casual and unremarkable. Which is worth recognizing, since it indicates where many bad events originate; from just an inch away from the everyday.” Or, as he puts it elsewhere, after his experience in Saskatchewan: “think how close evil is to the normal goings-on that have nothing to do with evil.”

Berner fades away in the second half of the novel with the focus on Dell and his strange life in Saskatchewan which turns around strange characters and another totally unexpected and even more violent event.

I liked many things about this novel. The voice of Dell Parsons, a young and rather innocent boy thrown full tilt into life, rings true. As do the events, strange as they are , and the maturity and evolution of Dell as a person and a character. As do the characters of Bev and Neeva, their thwarted ambitions and hopes, the constant scaling back of goals, and the slow disintegration of their relationship and marriage. Insights into the motivations of characters, their fears and hopes, the tensions and complexity of relationships, all sound true to me.

The key, as Dell muses, is “to see our life and the activities that ended it, as two sides of one thing that have to be held in the mind simultaneously to properly understand—the side that was normal and the side that was disastrous. One so close to the other. Any different way of looking at our life threatens to disparage the crucial, rational, common-place part we lived, the part in which everything makes sense to those on the inside…”

Dell’s experience in having his perfectly normal, bland family self-combust, followed by his strange experience in Saskatachwan, colours and determines his views of life. He calls it ‘reverse-thinking’ in that he, “never didn’t see the possibility of something being wrong again wherever I looked.”

“It’s been my habit of mind, over these years, to understand that every situation in which human beings are involved can be turned on its head. Everything someone assures me to be true might not be. Every pillar of belief that world rests on may or may not be about to explode. Most things don’t stay the way they are very long. Knowing this, however, has not made me cynical. Cynical means believing that good isn’t possible; and I know for a fact that good is. I simply take nothing for granted and try to be ready for the change that’s soon to come.”

It is a philosophy of life, and not a bad one, for dealing with the inevitability of change and recognizing that events can conspire to send life off on totally unexpected tangents. At the same time, Dell recognizes, towards the end of the book that, “My conceit is always ‘crossing a border’; adaptation, development from a way of living that doesn’t work toward on that does. It can also be about crossing a line and never being able to come back.”

Ford uses various characters to pass American observations about Canada that are pretty accurate in their incompleteness and naivety. On the drive up to Saskatachewan, the woman taking Dell tries to prepare him for what he will find:

“Canada was owned by England [this is in the 1960s] and contained provinces, not states of a union—though there was practically no difference except that Canada had only ten. People mostly spoke English, but in a different way she couldn’t describe, but I’d be aware of it and learn it. She said they had their own Thanksgiving, but theirs wasn’t on a Thursday and wasn’t in November. Canada had fought beside America in the same world war my father had fought in and had gotten involved in it even before we did, due to Canada’s obedience to the Queen of England, and in fact had an air force as good as ours. She said Canada wasn’t an old country like ours and still had a pioneer feel, and nobody there really thought of it as a country, and in fact in some parts people spoke French, and the capital was back east and nobody respected it the way we did Washington, D.C. She said Canada had dollars for money, but theirs were different colored and were sometimes mysteriously worth more than ours. She said Canada also had its own Indians and treated them better than we treated ours, and Canada was bigger than America though it was mostly empty and inhospitable and covered with ice much of the time.”

I’m not so sure these perceptions would be so out of place today for many Americans!

A good and perceptive novel about the human condition. Well worth reading.
  John | May 21, 2013 |
Fifteen year old Del Parsons and his twin sister Berner seem to be living a normal enough life in 1960 Montana. Their mother is a school teacher and their father is a newly retired decorated bombardier. Their life is shattered however when their normal enough parents are arrested for bank robbery. While his sister runs away to California, Del is instead taken to Canada to live with the eccentric brother of one of his mother's friends. At first Del seems to do well enough in Canada, but as Del has already learned, people aren't always what they seem. And a normal enough life can be changed in an instant.

Canada was so well reviewed that I began the novel thinking I would love it. The plot of the novel is certainly interesting and the Parson's are each quirky and interesting in their own way. The real weakness of the novel is how much time it takes for anything to happen. They are two major events that happen in Canada, neither of which is a surprise as the author lets the reader in on it well before he gets around to actually describing it in the story. But there is buildup and then there is a buildup. Unfortunately Canada spends huge chunks going over and over the same points. By the time the reader gets to the major events, any sense of drama has been totally sucked out of the story. Canada has many strong points, but maybe tighter editing could have made it truly great. ( )
1 vote queencersei | May 20, 2013 |
I finished this book with a strong feeling that Richard Ford is a very fine writer - but I find it really hard to identify what aspect of the work made me feel that way. It's a long-ish book, but there wasn't a single moment when I wished it would finish. On the other hand, it's not a page-turner that you want to keep reading to find out what happened - Ford summarizes the major dramatic events of the book in the first two sentences! Lesser writers need to keep such events secret from the reader to give an incentive to keep reading.

You'll have to read what more eloquent reviewers say if you want to get a better idea why this book is so good. All I can say is that Ford's characters each have a view of the world that is very compelling in their own way. I somehow got the feeling that Richard Ford knows the way the world works. ( )
  oldblack | May 11, 2013 |
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