Al's Reviews > Canada

Canada by Richard Ford
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's review
Jul 21, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

The narrator, Dell Parsons, and his twin sister are cast adrift when their parents fecklessly decide to rob a bank in North Dakota as a way out of their financial troubles. When the parents are arrested, Dell's sister leaves for parts unknown, and Dell is spirited into Canada by a family friend, there to live in a remote town and work for a sociopath. Does it sound like an interesting premise? Well, actually, it's not all that interesting. The ill-fated bank robbery is disclosed early in the book, the first 200 pages of which are then devoted to the events leading up to the robbery we already know is going to happen and not end well. It's like watching a slow-motion train wreck. The second half of the book, Dell's life working for a year in Canada and struggling to find his identity, at least has some suspense to it.
If there's a message in the book, I think it's that in life you rarely get what you want, so you have to make do with what you have. Certainly Dell is a sympathetic character, and the two major events in the book are startling enough, but on balance I'm not sure that those things are enough to carry 400 pages. Dell's existential struggles, and his ability to overcome adversity, are worthy of respect, but in the end Dell's just kind of dull. There's a great deal of introspection on his part, but who cares? On the plus side, Mr. Ford does a great job evoking the harsh and lonely presence of the Canadian prairie and its inhabitants.

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