It's been almost six years since the world has heard from Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford (Independence Day), but it has been very much worth the wait for Canada is a powerful, keenly wrought coming-of-age tale fraught with mistakes, misdemeanors and hard learned lessons.
For starters, the opening is a grabber: "First, I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed, Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the mist important part..." These are the words of Dell Parsons now a 66-year-old high school English teacher remembering 1960 when his life along with his twin sister's were thrown into turmoil.
Their parents were an unlikely couple. Father, Bev, was outgoing, garrulous, optimistic, given to a series of poor judgments. Their mother, Neeva, was Jewish, an academician, whose hopes of becoming a poet were thwarted by an early marriage and the birth of twins very soon thereafter. Bev had been in the Air Force and the family now lived in Great Falls, Montana where Dell hoped to attend high school The teenagers had never had friends as Neeva hadn't welcomed people into any of their homes and disdainfully viewed the other Air Force families.
Now, finding his Air Force pension and Neeva's school teaching salary inadequate Bev sets out to earn extra money, first selling cars then used cars and finally becoming in a meat scam with local Indians. When that goes awry he and Neeva decide to rob a bank. When they are captured and imprisoned Dell and sister Berner are left high and dry. Berner opts to run away to California and Dell is smuggled across the border into Canada by a friend of his mother. Not just to Canada, mind you, but to the far northern reaches of Saskatchewan where he is given work in a rundown hotel owned by Arthur Remlinger, an American with a Harvard education and a tainted background. Dell is relegated to living in a shack, and disappointed in other areas as well. None of what occurs in his life to date is due to anything he has or has not done.
Canada is a powerhouse of a novel, richly imagined and fully realized. So worth the wait - thank you, Richard Ford.