Pulitzer Prize winning author, Richard Ford, is out with a new novel worthy of another big prize. CANADA is, by far, the best novel I’ve read this year. I believe this one will be important. It certainly has all the essential elements of both a classic and a best seller.
In 1960, fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons and his twin sister, Berner, are living in Great Falls, Montana. They’re living a pretty mundane existence at the time. But that is about to change, and change their lives forever. You see, their parents are about to become big-time criminals and rob a bank.
The story is told in the voice of Dell as a teenager, and then later in life on the brink of retirement as a 66 year-old man. Richard Ford has climbed straight into the mind of this character and brings us his thoughts and fears in prose that rides across the pages with brilliant insight.
Bev Parsons is Dell’s father. He’s a retired Army Air Corp pilot who was born with a criminal mind. Born in Alabama, he’s a real country boy. Not nearly as educated as his wife, Neeva. Bev’s a handsome guy; tall and dark with a welcoming smile. But he’s also gotten himself into a heap of trouble. Something to do with stolen beef and local Indians.
Neeva is Dell’s mother. She’s a tiny thing with wiry brown hair and a very forgettable face. Neeva appears to be smart; well educated in any case. But when she decides to go along with Bev on the bank robbery job, we have to wonder how smart she is. Of course there is more to that than meets the eye. After all, why would she do this?
Berner might be Dell’s twin sister, but and Dell are total opposites. She just wants to run away from the get-go. Eventually, she does just that.
Once the robbery is a done deal, what happens to the kids? Well, Dell is smuggled over the border to Canada by a family friend. He ends up in the backwoods of Saskatchewan being hidden by a man who is not who he seems. Is he possibly in worst straights here than if he had stayed put and gone into protective custody?
We find ourselves in the midst of what sometimes seems to be a lawless land in Saskatchawan. Ford writes it as a cold, loveless, almost forgotten territory; a perfect place to get “lost” in. He paints of a desolate place anyone would be wild to escape.
You may have noticed that I have taken the liberty of telling what seems like “plenty” about the story. I do this knowing it is all out in the open from the get-go. Reading Richard Ford’s CANADA is like taking the back roads to your destination instead of the interstate. The dialog is sparse but is a perfect fit for the story. You will not miss it. The story is in Dell’s head. And he is the one telling this brilliant tale of tragedy and resilience. This one just could become a classic.
Richard Ford is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of INDEPENDENCE DAY.
My galley came from the generous publishing people at Ecco/ Harper Collins.