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Canada [Hardcover]

Richard Ford
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 11 2012 Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

"First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later."

So begins Canada, the unforgettable story of Dell Parsons, a young man forced by catastrophic circumstances to reconcile himself to a world rendered unrecognizable. Spirited across the Montana border into Saskatchewan and taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic man whose own past exists on the other side of the border, Dell struggles to understand what his future can be even as he comes to understand the violence simmering below the surface in his new life.

In this brilliant novel, set largely in Saskatchewan, Richard Ford has created a masterwork. Haunting and spectacular in vision, Canada is a novel rich with emotional clarity and lyrical precision, and an acute sense of the grandeur of living. It is a classic-in-the-making from one of our time’s greatest writers.

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A vast, magnificent canvas. This is one of the first great novels of the 21st century -- John Banville Guardian Ford is possessed of a writer's greatest gifts ... Pure vocal grace, quiet humor, precise and calm observation ... Ford's language is of the cracked, open spaces and their corresponding places within Lorrie Moore, New Yorker A brilliant and engrossing portrait of a fragile American family and the fragile consciousness of a teenage boy Colm Toibin, Metro A real king returns ... a story, and a vision, as sweeping as its landscapes Boyd Tonkin, Independent Astonishing ... Reviewers will be quick to proclaim that Richard Ford has written a great American novel, another masterpiece, and he most emphatically has. Canada is his finest work to date ... A powerfully human and profound novel that makes one sigh, shudder and weep. Here is greatness. No doubt about it Eileen Battersby, Irish Times His books will save you GQ A scrupulously rendered coming-of-age story Anthony Cummins, Sunday Telegraph The strength of the book is Ford's examination of flawed fatherhood, of the failures that push Dell into an uneasy maturity, one that allows him to achieve what remains the modest but profound goal of Ford's fiction: simply, to make a life ... his coda is as precise and measured as anything he has conjured before. The end, like a piece of origami, could fold right into the beginning of Ford's greatest novel, The Sportswriter. The sombre and gorgeous final two thirds of Canada rest next to Ford's best fiction Craig Taylor, The Times A true master of the modern American novel Independent Canada both grips and haunts Douglas Kennedy, Independent As opening lines go, they're corkers. The rest of the novel is quieter than you'd imagine but it amply fulfils their promise ... The result is prose so sonorous in its melancholy insightfulness that you'll want to linger over each sentence. Meanwhile, the story itself - a tale of what happens when uncrossable lines are crossed - will have you turning its pages ever faster Daily Mail Ford really excels in his virtuoso command of narrative suspense ... each part of Canada is superb in its own way ... [Ford is] a serious artist New York Review of Books --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"Ford captures the intricacies of human beings better than just about any other writer alive." --The Globe and Mail

"One of the great American fiction novelists of his generation." --The Washington Post Book World

"Ford is one of the greatest writers of our time, from any country and in any language, whose finely crafted words can pierce the heart like an arrow." --Calgary Herald

"One of his generation's most eloquent voices." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A POWERHOUSE OF A NOVEL May 29 2012
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Haunting July 23 2012
By Shepherdess Extraordinaire TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I read this book based on reviews I had read in newspapers and wasn't disappointed. Having lived in Saskatchewan and been to a lot of the smaller "ghost towns", I found the book intriguing. Ford's descriptions of the two small towns that Dell lived in are so accurate and I could easily picture them. His descriptions give a sense of aloneness and desolation that I experienced when visitng these towns. I always found it fascinating to imagine what the towns were like when they were inhabited (their history) - much like Dell did. Ford does a great job of taking a quiet lonely life and describing it so that you feel you are right there sharing in it.

Many reviews indicate that the first part of the book was the best with the last part (Dell in Saskatchewan) not keeping pace. But I felt the second part was the best of the two. The story leading up to his parents robbing the bank dragged in places but I couldn't put down the part in Saskatchewan. I often wondered if the second part could have stood on its own - it was that good. How the two parts tie together becomes clear at the end as Dell shares his thoughts about how events in our life come together to have - or not have - meaning and significance - which I think is the point of the book.

I highly recommend Canada, especially if you are from the Prairies. I couldn't stop thinking about this book for days after finishing it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imprévu/Unforeseen July 31 2012
Une narration parcimonieuse qui ne révèle que petit à petit les éléments-clés de l'intrigue. Il faut faire preuve de patience et progresser au rythme imposé par l'auteur. Or, la persévérance est récompensée : un magnifique récit sur les effets des décisions des autres sur nos vies, sur la possibilité d'être soi-même, sur le fait d'être forcé à être « un autre », sur la capacité à tromper autrui et comment toute la différence entre deux mondes possibles peut au final résider dans de petits détails sur lesquels nous exerçons peu de contrôle.

A parsimonious narrative that reveals only gradually key elements of the plot. The reader must be patient and advance at the pace set by the author. But perseverance is rewarded: a magnificent story about the effects of others' decisions on our lives, the possibility of being oneself, of being forced to be "another", the ability to deceive, and mostly, how the difference between possible worlds can ultimately reside in small details on which one has little control.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars arrogant and wordy July 6 2013
I looked forward to this one but had a hard time finishing it. I liked the narrator, but found the storytelling took a big back seat to the writing itself, which was too wordy, as if too unedited, with the exception of the first line, which is a winner. It could have been a much better novel at half the length if we weren't subjected to all his show-offy writing. Maybe Ford is a little long in the tooth for this sort of epic. But that may be an unfair comment. I just don't know why he wrote this one.
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2.0 out of 5 stars An insult to every Canadian Oct. 30 2014
By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Drawn by the title, and the author's pedigree, I came to the novel Canada as a Canadian, anticipating a story illuminating this vast and diverse country and people.

Instead, what I came upon was an author trying too hard, and unsuccessfully, to channel the likes of F. Scott FitzGerald or John Steinbeck, carrying with him a typically American ignorance of Canada, its people, its culture, its heritage.

The story revolves, endlessly, around a bank-robbing mother and father who, through their idiocy and sense of entitlement, leave their children, fraternal twins, barely into adolescence as orphans and essentially homeless.

The novel is full of implausibilities: the fact there are no social services to take charge of the children at the time of the arrest of the parents; the smuggling of the unreliable narrator into Canada to an alleged safe house; the robbery itself. The list is just too long to enumerate here.

The writing, although lauded by critics as a 'meticulous concern for the nuances of language', to this reader fell flat, lacklustre, without that alleged meticulous concern for the nuance of language. Frankly, it read as so much blah, blah, blah. In fact, the first third of the book is interminably expository, given little credence or gravitas by the nature of Ford's use of the unreliable narrator.

When we finally come to the denouement, we are treated to a moment out of an old Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is? Which is followed quickly by a complete change of scenery and time, one cannot help but feel because the author ran out of steam.

The characters were so utterly cardboard as to be ridiculous.

And let us not even begin to speak of the gross misunderstanding of anything to do with Canada, let alone Saskatchewan.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD READ
The strange thing about Canada is that the book is not about Canada at all. The family story told by the son some 50 years after the events which derailed a perfectly ordinary... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Laurent Beaulieu
3.0 out of 5 stars Too slow and not enough of a story for me, may be the ticket for you
The biggest problem from my perspective is that this novel is not really about anything that I can see. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Rodge
4.0 out of 5 stars an absorbing story!
It took a while getting into the story and being absorbed by the transformational nature of a single event. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Rosemary Kavanagh
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating exploration about the past and how we can never lose it
In the first half of the story, baby boomers, Del Parson and his sister Berner begin their life moving from airforce base to airforce base with their petite, mousy mother, Neeva,... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Len
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Really, the first paragraph of the book was the only interesting part. I read the first half of the book and skimmed the second half. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Cheryl Pratt
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
The first half, until the author gets to Saskatchewan, is very good. The final killing is not very believable and the book declines from there
Published 23 months ago by Neil C
3.0 out of 5 stars A Different Type of Richard Ford
Richard Ford is a writer who I've admired for decades. And, who wouldn't be an admirer of this fabulous opening sentence? Read more
Published on July 15 2012 by
5.0 out of 5 stars Canada
I just finished reading the book Canada by Richard Ford. I first read the review in McLeans magazine and I was intrigued. I ordered the book immediately and loved every bit of it. Read more
Published on June 25 2012 by Jacquie Genys
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