Richard Ford’s Canada
“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”
It’s a great opening to a great novel. Actually, Canada is comprised of two novels that take place in 1960 followed by a short story told in the present day. Each are narrated by Dell Parsons who at the beginning is a 15-year-old boy living with his southern-born Air Force father, Jewish northwestern intellectual mother, and twin sister, Berner, in Great Falls, Montana. Dell has experienced little of the world; his voice strongly reflects his naïveté and the limited aspirations of a rootless small town existence, though the narrator has the hindsight of 50 years. Dell’s only future desire is to attend the upcoming county agricultural fair, though a sense of foreboding he can recognize, but not fully grasp, is ever present.
The second part takes Dell (no surprise) north to Alberta and an entirely new set of characters, including an American with a dark, hidden past that is rapidly gaining ground and a Métise caretaker who serve as surrogate parents. This section is less compelling, but often incredibly brilliant in its prose and symbolism as many different kinds of borders are crossed.
The final short story serves as a coda, tying things together in a melancholia.
Richard Ford is a superb novelist. That he joins Toni Morrison (Home) and John Irving (In One Person) with books being released this month is great news for those of us who like some substance mixed in with our fun summer reading.
Recently read: Live By Night, by Dennis Lehane (release date: October 12, 2012). This work of historical fiction is something of a sequel to The Given Day. It takes Danny Coughlin’s youngest brother, Joe, to Tampa Bay during Prohibition, where he consolidates mob activity. Lehane is a very good storytellerer, and placing the book away from big city mobsters offers a different take.
Reading now: Sutton, by J.R. Moehringer (September 25, 2012). This is the first novel by Moehringer, who gave us the superb memoir The Tender Bar in 2005. Sutton is a fictionalized account of Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, perhaps the most successful bank robber in U.S. history — if you don’t count the fact that half of his adult life was spent behind bars. I’m loving every page.
Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, Wednesday, May 23rd at 7pm, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, free.
Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, authors of The Presidents Club, Thursday, May 24th at 7pm, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, free.
Jeff Shaara, author of A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh, Wednesday, May 30th, 7pm, The Atlanta History Center, free.