The only writer ever to win both the Pulitzer Prize and Pen/Faulkner Award for a single novel (Independence Day) Richard Ford follows the completion of his acclaimed Bascombe trilogy with Canada. After a five-year hiatus, an undisputed American master delivers a haunting and elemental novel about the cataclysm that undoes one teenage boy’s family, and the stark and unforgiving landscape in which he attempts to find grace.
A powerful and unforgettable tale of the violence lurking at the heart of the world, Richard Ford’s Canada will resonate long and loud for readers of stark and sweeping novels of American life, from the novels of Cheever and Carver to the works of Philip Roth, Charles Frazier, Richard Russo, and Jonathan Franzen.
The first novel in six years from Pulitzer Prize winner (for Independence Day) Ford is a tragic rural farrago composed of two awkwardly joined halves. In the late 1950s, in Great Falls, Mont., teenage twins Dell and Berner Parson have different concerns: Berner's is whether to run away with her boyfriend; Dell's is chess and beekeeping. Their comically mismatched parents rakish, smalltime schemer Bev and brooding, Jewish Neeva have problems beyond a joyless union. Bev's stolen beef scheme goes awry, leaving him owing his Cree Indian accomplices. In desperation he robs a bank, roping his wife into the crime, and Dell, peering back much later, chronicles every aspect of the intricate but misguided plan, which left his parent incarcerated and he and Berner alone. Berner runs away, and Dell ends up in the care of a shady family friend at a hunting lodge in Canada, living an even more barren and lonely existence than he had in Great Falls. The book's first half has the makings of a succinct rural tragedy, but Dell's inquisition of the past is so deliberate that it eventually moves from poignant to played out. The Canadian section has a mythic strangeness, but adds little, as Dell remains a passive witness to the foolhardy actions of adults. A book from Ford is always an event and his prose is assured and textured, but the whole is not heavily significant.
A compelling but ultimately slow, slow moving story. It took me
Almost 2 months to get through it. It is so melancholy in feel that one needs to take great breaks from the reading of it. As three of the four main character fade into virtual oblivion by the end of the 1st quarter of the book,one expects the 4th one to be fully fleshed out after the loss of the 1st three. This was not apparent to me. Dell is still a mystery,even after reading his "story".
I give this book a C+.
First I'll tell you about the problem I had with this book from the very beginning, and then about the other problems that came later. But if you don't understand that first problem, the big problem, then nothing else will make much sense.
It starts with the first sentence, really. It's a great sentence, followed by many more great sentences. But they seem to me like sentences a fifteen year old boy might write. They do not sound like sentences a sixty-six year old man would write. At least, not one who spent forty years as a high school English teacher, like the character who is supposed to be telling the story.
So that's the first problem, the big problem that I could never really leave behind. At least, not in the way that most of the characters in the novel leave their problems behind. Like when they cross a border and leave their problems on the other side so they don't have to deal with them again. (They just have new problems.) But that's one of my problems with this book - I told you I had more. I don't know people who behave like these people, who can just walk away, who don't become angry when they are abused, who don't act out, strike back or do something to somebody when somebody hurts them. Especially not fifteen year old kids. These characters don't seem real to me. Oh some do I guess, but those are the ones whose problems came with them across the border and still follow them around.
Here's another problem (the last one I'm going to talk about). Nothing happens. For a long time anyway, at least in the first part until Richard Ford finally get to the bank robbery. Which he says he's going to tell us about in the first sentence but doesn't really, until a very long time after that.
You should know that I really liked the second part of the book. A lot more stuff happens quicker than it did before.
And that's all I have to say about it.
A Great American Novel
Stunning, lyrical, finely wrought, and ultimately heartbreaking. This is truly one of the best novels of this or any other year. Evokes the best of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy in its depth of setting, mood and characters.