Review: Canada

By Richard Ford
(Ecco, Paperback, 9780061692031, January 2013, 432pp.)

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?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

13 thoughts on “Review: Canada”

    1. You will love his writing. Some in the book club felt it was on the slow side. It was a little slow but I felt it was deliberate to emphasize the desolate environment surrounding Dell.


  1. I’ve come across this book many times, and intrigued by its title, but haven’t read it. Thanks for this review. I’m still intrigued as to why it’s called Canada since apparently that’s not the major story element, except maybe just the setting?

  2. I’ve been hesitant about this one because I’m not sure whether it’s something I’d really like. But now I think I might put it on my list and give it a try.

  3. I’ll definitely read this one. Sadly, at over 400 pages, I won’t be able to get anyone in my book club to read it so I could discuss it. We did Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake last month and a couple of people didn’t even finish that!

    1. There was a time where my book club would not even consider a book of this length but that has changed over the years.


  4. Wow you read it in two sittings, that’s good. It must be good storytelling. I read one of his story collections called Women With Men: three stories; it was excellent. I agree he’s a great writer; I would like to read more of his books.

  5. I remember really liking this book but also realizing that it was nothing like I thought it was going to be. Hmm, that seems to be happening a lot lately…

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