Written in a slow, languid, lyrical style so light that it nearly floats, Richard Ford’s new novel, Canada, further solidifies the author’s position among the best American writers of our time. A recollection by a 62-year-old English professor of dramatic events more than 40 years after the fact, Canada is recounted with the same unhurried beauty as the sun descending on a late summer’s afternoon. At its core, the novel is a meditation on how we change and are changed dramatically both by destiny and by those we love.
Canada is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Dell Parsons, whose parents find themselves deeply in debt and foolishly attempt an ill-fated bank robbery.
After his father and mother are quickly arrested and placed in jail, Dell and his twin sister, Berner, are left to their own devices in a small Montana town. Fearing a miserable future as wards of the state, Berner runs away, leaving Dell in the hands of a family friend, who transports him across the border and into hiding in the wilds of western Canada.
Dell’s narration of these sudden dramatic changes in his life is written with heart-wrenching simplicity and beauty as the teenager struggles to comprehend his world spinning out of control. Suddenly adrift, alone and far away from home, Dell finds himself a stranger in a strange land filled with a cast of comically bizarre characters. It takes time to adapt, but in the end Dell’s ability to accept his fate and eventually improve his circumstances literally saves him.
Canada is a novel about how people react to events often beyond their control. It forces us to question exactly who we are to each other and how our relationships can be irrevocably altered. And it suggests that while we may try to control our destinies by the lines and borders that we cross, in the end the people we become are never precisely marked or defined. Grade: A+
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