“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” Those are the first two sentences of Richard Ford’s new novel, Canada. Quite a whopper of an opener, right?
I just read the book for my book club and boy oh boy, am I ever glad that I/we did! I never would have picked it up on my own, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. There were times that I read and then re-read lines because the words seemed to dance on the pages. Literally.
The New York Times refers to Canada as “being blessed with two essential strengths in equal measure – a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next.” Need I say more? I mean, really. I ought to just stop there. But, naaaaaah, here is a little more about it.
When fifteen-year-old narrator Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank (yes, rob a bank), his sense of normalcy is shattered, obviously. Writing with 50 years’ hindsight, Dell insists that his parents were not criminals, but ordinary people who made a bad decision. He describes his parents as “regular people tricked by circumstances and bad instincts, along with bad luck, to venture outside of boundaries they knew to be right, and then found themselves unable to go back.” Part of the magic of Ford’s writing is the seamless fusion of Dell’s 65-year-old voice with his teenage one.
His parents’ arrest and imprisonment in Great Falls, Montana meant an uncertain and threatening future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Equal parts resentful and willful, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life.
A family friend intervenes at the request of Dell’s mother and transports him across the Canadian border to escape social service agents. There, on a prairie in Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks a force of darkness and violence…hence, the murders. Uh huh.
I could go on and on, but I’ve babbled enough. Hopefully enough to entice you to read it. If you do, I sure hope that you enjoy what I thought was a great book (Silver Lining).