Like most readers, this reviewer came across Richard Ford through his 1986 novel The Sportswriter and followed him to Independence Day and the short story collection Rock Springs. On picking up Canada, his latest novel, I was surprised to note that it is his seventh novel and he has four published collections of short stories. It is a pleasure to read Ford, his seemingly effortless prose is linguistically rich, not only delivering the narrative but pulling the reader into the cultural and emotional landscape of the his stories.
The first person narrator of Canada, Dell Parsons, tells his family story as a recollection in retirement of the two events that changed his life, aged 15 in the 1950s. Ford leaves the reader in no doubt with the opening two lines “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later”. Canada is familiar territory for Ford, exploring the quality of existence and relationships in the lives of mundane people in ordinary neighbourhoods, depicting the cracks in the fabric of family and community that lead to failure. Our lens is that of the 15 year old Dell, through which not much happens, but there are extraordinary and even bizarre events in the brief period of the story which we never for one moment find incredible. Despite been titled Canada, the novel is an eloquent exploration of the pressures that changed the nature of post-war American society. The quiet reflections of the adult Dell turns out to be a compelling read which makes it a hard book to put down.