“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”
Then fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed.
His parents’ 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 a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks 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. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer to a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness.
A true masterwork of haunting and spectacular vision from one of our greatest writers, Canada is a profound novel of boundaries traversed, innocence lost and reconciled, and the mysterious and consoling bonds of family. Told in spare, elegant prose, both resonant and luminous, it is destined to become a classic.
About Richard Ford
Richard Ford is the author of the Bascombe novels, which include The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day—the first novel to win the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award—and The Lay of the Land, as well as the short story collections Rock Springs and A Multitude of Sins, which contain many widely anthologized stories. He lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford.
This is Ford’s first novel since concluding the Frank Bascombe trilogy, which began with The Sportswriter (1986), peaked with the prize-winningIndependence Day (1995) and concluded with The Lay of the Land (2006). That series was for Ford what the Rabbit novels were for Updike, making this ambitious return to long-form fiction seem like something of a fresh start, but also a thematic culmination. Despite its title, the novel is as essentially all-American as Independence Day. Typically for Ford, the focus is as much on the perspective (and limitations) of its protagonist as it is on the issues that the narrative addresses. The first-person narrator is Dell Parsons, a 15-year-old living in Montana with his twin sister when their parents—perhaps inexplicably, perhaps inevitably—commit an ill-conceived bank robbery. Before becoming wards of the state, the more willful sister runs away with her boyfriend, while Dell is taken across the border to Canada, where he will establish a new life for himself after crossing another border, from innocent bystander to reluctant complicity. The first half of the novel takes place in Montana and the second in Canada, but the entire narrative is Dell’s reflection, 50 years later, on the eve of his retirement as a teacher. As he ruminates on character and destiny, and ponders “how close evil is to the normal goings-on that have nothing to do with evil,” he also mediates between his innocence as an uncommonly naïve teenager and whatever wisdom he has gleaned through decades of experience. Dell’s perspective may well be singular and skewed, but it’s articulate without being particularly perceptive or reflective. And it’s the only one we have. In a particularly illuminating parenthetical aside, he confesses, “I was experiencing great confusion about what was happening, having had no experience like this in my life. I should not be faulted for not understanding what I saw.” – Kirkus Reviews
‘Canada,’ by Richard Ford
The Washington Post Book Review – May 15, 2012 (Excerpt)
Toni Morrison, John Irving and now Richard Ford.
The month of May is turning into a catwalk of America’s greatest senior novelists. Ford’s new book is the best of the lot, though, a magnificent work of Montana gothic that confirms his position as one of the finest stylists and most humane storytellers in America.
He’s well known, of course, for his Frank Bascombe trilogy, whose second volume,“Independence Day,” won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. As rich and durable as John Updike’sRabbit quartet and Philip Roth’s Zuckerman series, the Bascombe novels are an insightful chronicle of middle-class life, infused with the economic and cultural anxieties of the late 20th century.
Now, Ford has left the suburbs of New Jersey two thousand miles away and delivered his most elegiac and profound book. “Canada” may strike recent fans as a departure, but it’s actually a return to the plains of his first celebrated story collection,“Rock Springs” (1987). Here in Great Falls, Mont., the author lays out a tale of one unexceptional family’s disintegration.
“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” [Read the full article...]
All Their Decisions Were Bad Ones - ‘Canada,’ a Novel by Richard Ford
The New York Times Book Review – May 21, 2012 (Excerpt)
In a story in Richard Ford’s striking 1987 collection, “Rock Springs,”a 15-year-old boy in Great Falls, Mont., sees his father kill a drunken man — an act that will change the family’s life forever, “in a way none of us could ever have imagined.”
“The most important things of your life,” the boy later observes, “can change so suddenly, so unrecoverably, that you can forget even the most important of them and their connections, you are so taken up by the chanciness of all that’s happened and by all that could and will happen next.”
This story, “Optimists,” seems to have been the kernel that gave birth to Mr. Ford’s ungainly but at times powerful new novel, “Canada.” Once again, the initial backdrop is Great Falls. Once again, a teenager finds his life swerving off course because of an impulsive act by his father. And once again, readers are reminded how easily events can snowball out of control, how everything mundane and taken for granted can vanish in an instant.
This time the boy is named Dell Parsons and he has a twin sister named Berner. Mr. Ford has fashioned an engaging, ruminative voice for Dell. It’s less self-conscious than that of the author’s best-known hero, Frank Bascombe, who starred in “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day”(and the less successful “Lay of the Land”), but almost as elastic, capable of capturing the vernacular of the everyday, while addressing the big philosophical questions of choice and fate. [Read the full article...]
Points North - ‘Canada,’ by Richard Ford
The New York Times Book Review – June 7, 2012 (Excerpt)
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.
“Canada” opens in 1960 in Great Falls, Mont., a frontier town Ford has written about before, most notably in his affecting and largely underrated 1990 novel “Wildlife,” which begins with this: “In the fall of 1960, when I was 16 and my father was for a time not working, my mother met a man named Warren Miller and fell in love with him.” All that follows is told from the point of view of Joe Brinson, an older narrator looking back on the 16-year-old boy he’d been when the fragile equilibrium at his family’s center was lost. This is an engaging voice: earnest without being morose; honest without being exhibitionistic; understated, humble and wise from years of trusting in questions more than in answers. But this voice, as successful as it is, pales in comparison to that of Dell Parsons, the protagonist of “Canada,” another older narrator looking back on when his life, too, went astray in 1960 in Great Falls, Mont. Here are its opening lines: “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.” [Read the full article...]
No Longer A Southern Writer, Ford Goes To ‘Canada’
NPR Book Review – June 16, 20112 (Excerpt)
“First, I’ll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”
So begins Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard’s Ford’s latest novel, Canada.
The story is narrated by retired school teacher Dell Parsons as he looks back on the tumult that ensued when his parents — two unlikely criminals — find themselves in a financial bind and haphazardly hold up a small-town bank.
It’s part of his job as a writer, Ford says, to set the unexpected into motion.
“I have a theory,” he tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Jacki Lyden, “…that someplace at the heart of most compelling stories is something that doesn’t make sense.”
Dell’s parents wind up in jail, leaving him and his twin sister, Berner, to fend for themselves. Berner, the more audacious of the two, runs away to California while Dell is carted across the border to live with a murderous fugitive at a hunting outpost in Canada. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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