26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2012
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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, and their handsome, larger-than-life, good-looking father, Bev. In the early 60’s, the family now residing in Great Falls, Montana. Unfortunately, Bev is forced to retire from service and has great difficulty finding a civilian job to augment his meager pension. He quickly runs into financial problems and so, attempts to revive a scam he’d run in the army. He's double-crossed by partners and so turns to the ridiculously solution of robbing a bank. (I am giving nothing away here.)
Del is forced to find a new life in the second part of the novel in Canada. There he’s left in the care of Arthur, a distant relative who’s also moved to Canada to begin a new life. Many reviews complain that the second half of Mr. Ford’s book was not nearly as good as the first. I would have to disagree. Except for some excess description of a small Saskatchewan town, I very much enjoyed following the story of Del’s life in his new country. Unlike the first part where we are told from the beginning about his parent’s botched attempt at robbery, we have no idea what is going to happen. Arthur seems a bit strange but we don’t know why. We know that Del becomes a teacher however, when he arrives in the small and now extinct, southern Saskatchewan town, he isn’t even allowed to attend school. “Canada” is about the country, but more importantly, it symbolizes new beginnings and if they’re even possible. For Mr. Ford, a writer of complex, troubled stories, the answer would be an obvious no. The past will haunt us always.
A rewarding novel about so many things. Our main character Del narrates this story as he navigates his way through his new life. Part 1 of the book I have to say was just a tiny bit slow as we are introduced to His parents and delve into their up-bringing and their life stories thus far.
Where the book really gets good and begins; is the end of part 1 and starting part 2. Then the books just takes off and is very hard to put down. There are so many nuggets of thought provoking sections from all of the characters including ones you would least expect like Charley. "Can non punishment become your life" " is deception in all forms carried out by everyone" Yes the book is largely set in Saskatchewan but the book is not a story of Canada or Saskatchewan at all. It's a great fiction book with very intense characters. Every character from Del and Berner to Arthur and Bev and Neeva were so real and full I kept thinking this book was a true story and not a novel. It's like Richard Ford personally knew these people he wrote about. By the time I got to the last few pages I savoured it slowly because it was heavy but also because I kept wanting the story to go on and on. I can see why it won a Pulitzer. I really enjoyed this book.
The biggest problem from my perspective is that this novel is not really about anything that I can see. The opening story of the parents who rob a bank is certainly gripping enough to get you through the first half, although the pacing is almost drearily slow. Nonetheless, Richard Ford is an accomplished stylist, and the little telling touches he puts into place certainly make this a readable and even enjoyable novel.
The final half is less enjoyable and less convincing, which means that having worked your way through the first part, your work only gets harder as the story progresses. The murder that is mentioned in the first line finally happens towards the end, but has nowhere near the emotional impact and interest of the bank robbery in the first half.
In summary, Richard Ford gets some points for style, but that doesn't quite cover for the lack of story and the lack of real emotional interest in the outcome.
on July 16, 2015
You do not want to miss a single word when reading Richard Ford. I loved the characterization and slow, steady build up to events that were sometimes shocking, sometimes disturbing, but always worth waiting for. Dell Parsons is a protagonist that I feel a great affinity for, perhaps even more than Ford's other, more well-known one, the inimitable Frank Bascombe. If this book were given to me with without a title or an author's name attached, I would still have spent hours over my summer holiday engrossed in it. And I think his take on some aspects of Canada were bang on.
on October 19, 2013
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 family life is an interesting read, much detail in the characters and what they are like. It is their perfect ordinariness that is gripping, somewhat like a train wreck in slow motion with an undercurrent of resignation and anger from the narrator about his parents and what they did. It's not a thriller but a portrait of one family in desolate Western USA.
I enjoyed it, it was the first of Richard Ford's novels I have read and I liked it.
on August 18, 2013
It took a while getting into the story and being absorbed by the transformational nature of a single event. The narrative is deep and absorbing - you ponder the fate of an abandoned 15 year old and learn much about coping and success which is all about reconciling peace of mind, juxtapositioning events rather than being overwhelmed by them. A well written reflective peace - everyone wii find something about themselves in this story.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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. Frankly, upon consideration, I would recommend every Canadian to pick up this novel, particularly if you're from Saskatchewan, just to explode into laughter at how wrong this writer could envisage that oceanic, wildly free geography we know as the middle province of the Prairies.
Finally, good job, Richard Ford, by way of insulting every Canadian who might read this book by stating several times in the novel: Canadians are just like Americans, and, Canadians want to be just like Americans. Seriously?
Next time the author of Canada wishes to write with authority about a foreign country, I suggest he actually live in that country for a period of time, immerse himself in the culture and the people, then, and only then, he might begin to approach the subject matter with some authority. But, then, maybe not. Any author who can write with sublime confidence that Canadians are just like Americans plainly hasn't a clue and should stick to writing about his own culture.