Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: "Canada" by Richard Ford

I have to give Richard Ford a lot of credit for writing Canada, his latest novel. It could not be more different than the Frank Bascombe novels that he is known for. Gone are the suburban enclaves hiding Yates-like desperation. That motif is replaced by a more naturalistic setting in the harsh, yet beautifully so, land that connects America to Canada in the far north. It reminded me a lot of the setting of David Wroblewski’s wonderful novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Yet this novel is not nearly as interesting, and that becomes its greatest downfall. This is a very slow, probably one of the slowest I have ever read (although nothing surpasses Peter Nadas’ navel gazing snooze fest Parallel Stories, a book I am not sure I will ever go back to again). And this book shouldn’t be slow, it involves bank robbery and murder. I expect a gritty look at this kids life with nuance, which Edgar Sawtelle was able to do. The story is told from the perspective of Dell Parsons, now an old man, who looks back on his life and the most memorable time he had, which occurred in 1960’s Montana. In breathtaking descriptions, we learn how overwhelmingly normal his family is, despite his dad selling stolen beef to Indians. So when his dad, along with his reluctant mother rob a bank, it comes as a shock. When his twin sister leaves for California, Dell is left alone, and is taken to Canada to stay with Arthur Remingler, whose violent past and lost ideals make him a toxic entity in Dell’s life. I hate to say it, but most of the action in the novel is boring, although Dell’s sense of loneliness and isolation, even after the murders happen and he reunites with his sister years later before she dies, is very palpable. I just wish the action were too. If you can tough it out through the long haul with some dry passages, you might enjoy this book.
Rating: 4/5

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