Canada by Richard Ford

Canad The beginning of this distinctly American novel is shocking and that shock started a low level of dread inside that did not leave me until days after I finished reading it. Our hero is 14 year old Dell Parsons, son of Bev and Neeva, brother of Berner. The family is living in Great Falls, a large town in 1960’s Montana as the story begins. They seem to be a happy, if slightly odd family. We know early on that major upheavals are in store for all four of them, and the subtle writing style keeps us on edge. We don’t know if it will be hilarious or crushing.

This is a large and sometimes slow story, but skipping ahead or skimming is not recommended. The beauty and complexities of the design need to be appreciated. The novel presents some large questions about family, love, and one’s relationship to the land.Terrible and unbelievable things happen to all the Parsons while in Montana, in spite of the normalcy all around them. The second half of the book is set in Saskatchewan, Canada, in a town truly out of time and place, another planet in many ways. The writing is always beautiful and stark, with a streak of dark humor.

Dell tells his tale as a flashback right up until the end of the book, so he is not quite a reliable narrator. This gives the reader plenty to think about, as Dell struggles to come of age and to regain a sense of connection with the world and grieve over the tragic dissolution of his family.

Richard Ford is the author of several other books, including The Sportswriter and the Pulitzer Prizewinning Independence Day.

 

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