Wednesday, September 05, 2012

First Wednesday Book Review Club: CANADA, Richard Ford

WARNING: BLOGGER IS THREATENING TO MAKE US SWITCH OVER TO A NEW FORMAT IMMINENTLY. IF I DISAPPEAR, I AM SORRY.



CANADA, Richard Ford.


I am a big Richard Ford fan. Loved his trilogy about Frank Bascombe beginning with THE SPORTS WRITER. Love his short stories.

CANADA may be his most brilliant work. It is certainly a sharp turn north. The North American experience, the life on the western plains, has never seemed more eloquent.


Dell and Berner Parsons are fraternal twins being raised in Montana. When things get tight, their parents rob a bank. You know this is coming from the first lines of the novel.

"First I'll tell you 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."

And it is this event that drives the first half of the book if not all of it. You may think Dell's parents are kindred souls, but in fact their marriage is awful in the way marriages born of bad decisions were in 1960. But Dell's parents, in a severe economic crisis, rob a bank and come home to almost immediate imprisonment.

Dell is sent to stay with a remote Canadian relative in Saskatchewan and his sister takes off for virtually the remainder of the novel. He is put in the care of Arthur Remlinger, a remote, strange man who basically ignores him with the idea he is teaching him survival skills.

The final part of the book hooks the siblings up fifty years later, but again it is not a happy reunion. These two were doomed from the moment of their birth.

This is a sad book, a strange one. But the experience of Dell is one we want to hear. The writing is exquisite: rough-hewed at times, velvety at others. I highly recommend it to readers who like good writing and are patient with plot.

For more book reviews, see Barrie Summy right here.





16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, this does sound like a compelling book! I'm glad you found it so. And I love the way it weaves the characters' stories in. All that and good writing too? Yeah, I'm interested.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I will get to this one eventually. I'm a fan of the short stories and the Bascombe books.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Very Different from this other books. Doesn't even seem like the same writer-but still terrific.

Rose said...

I've never read anything by Richard Ford before; judging by your review and the comments here, I need to remedy that!

Scott Parker said...

Richard Ford is one of those authors that I constantly hear great things about but have never read. I like that passage you quote. Chalk up another one for The List.

George said...

I've read most of Richard Ford's short stories and all of his novels. CANADA has mixed reviews, but I have a copy on my stack of Read Real Soon books.

Sarah Laurence said...

I've heard such mixed reviews of this book so it was interesting to hear the perspective of one who has read all his work. I should read something by him.

What the big change Google Blogger is threatening? I haven't heard anything. I don't like the revised word verification.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is a big warning on my dashboard that I will have to change to the new format imminently. Perhaps you did it when they first started speaking of it a year or so ago. I clung like barnacles to a rock.

Anonymous said...

My recommendation to those who aren't sure if they'd like Ford is to try ROCK SPRINGS (maybe get a copy at the library) and if you like him go on to THE SPORTSWRITER.


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A good place indeed.This is an outlier book for Ford.

Chris said...

I'm happy to hear your opinion on this book, Patti. I've been holding out on reading it, but probably will now. I like Richard Ford.

Deb said...

I thought this was an interesting book but the narrator seemed so detached from these incredibly traumatic experiences--but perhaps that was the idea.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can see what you mean, Deb. I think their childhood was so traumatic, their parents and then the relative in Canada so withdrawn and unforthcoming, it made both kids eccentric and hard to understand.

Barrie said...

I'm just from the few beginning lines you included in your review! Also, I can't turn down a title like that!! (since I'm from Toronto) :) Thank, Patti!

Kent Morgan said...

Not surprisingly, I bought Canada just as soon as it was out - in Canada. I read somewhere that the cover is different than the US first. Plan to read it before Ford is here in Winnipeg on Sept. 25 as a mainstage speaker at our annual International Writers Festival. He was here several years ago with Leif Enger for a dual signing at a large independent bookstore and didn't attract much of a crowd. When the signing was ending I walked up with Rock Springs and The Sportswriter which I liked. I also had a first edition of his second novel, The Ultimate Good Luck, which surprised him because it didn't sell many copies and was collectible at the time. I'll bet its value has dropped 200-300% since then. If you can find it there is a terrific story by David Carpenter about the time Raymond Carver was invited to a book festival in Saskatchewan and he only agreed to come if he could bring a young Ford with him and they could go hunting.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You know what. I have never read that book. I am a great admirer.