Thursday, March 28, 2013
Canada by Richard Ford
"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."
These are the first three sentences in Richard Ford's novel, Canada. The book goes back from that point and explains the events that led up to this opening. Dell Parsons is an average teenager of the 1960's. He lives in Grand Falls, Montana with his twin sister, Berner, and their parents. Bev Parsons is an ex-military man, a charming rascal who finds himself at odds after his military career. The mother is a schoolteacher,unimpressed with Montana or with Bev. Dell and Berner are fifteen the summer the book begins, looking forward to high school and bored with their average lives.
Bev finds himself in a mess when one of his schemes goes awry. His only solution, he believes, is to rob a bank. Dell's mother accompanies him when it is clear that he plans to take Dell with him. As might be suspected, the robbery is soon solved and the police show up and both parents are sent to jail. There are no relatives to step in. Berner, disillusioned already with small-town life, runs away. Dell is picked up by friend of his mother's. She takes him over the border into Canada, where she leaves him with her brother in a remote hunting town.
The brother ignores Dell for weeks. He is sent to live in a hunting shack with no running water or toilet. He is to help with the work of hunting guide, as men come from all over to hunt the geese as they migrate. There is no mention of school. When the brother starts to notice Dell, he is drawn into a web of deceit and violence.
The book is a bleak coming of age novel. Dell is thrust from a comfortable, boring life to one where he has no one who cares about him. He must learn to survive and decide what kind of man he will be. The unforeseen consequences of a moment's actions are explored, along with how quickly an entire life can change. Dell's character development and his decisions are compelling, and the reader will remember him for a long time. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.