Thursday, 5 July 2012


Finished July 4
Canada by Richard Ford

This novel is told by Dell Parsons, a man looking back at a few months fifty years earlier, where two actions changed his life. The opening lines tell us "First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister's lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first."
So the first section of the book deals with the robbery, the situation his family was in at the time, his parents' personalities, his twin sister, Berner's personality, his own immaturity, and longing for a normal life. We seem them, outsiders in the two, partly due to his father's recent, lifelong army career, partly due to his mother's ethnicity and attitude, partly due to the small town culture of Great Falls, Montana at the time. Dell is small for his age, bookish, interested in chess and beekeeping, longing to begin high school in the fall. We see that Dell is a person things happen to for the most part, not a boy who takes action. The robbery uproots his whole world, and he begins again.
The next section of the book deals with the next few months of his life, in rural Saskatchewan. He lives at first in a mostly abandoned prairie town, in a shack with no running water. Later, when things turn colder and his shack is needed for other purposes, he lives in a small room in a hotel owned by the man who has provided for him. He works, tries to figure out his new life, and lets things happen to him again. It is during this time that he learns some life skills, and gains some maturity. He is in an odd situation, casually looked after by others who have no real interest in him. At the end of this, he moves on again, to a more normal life, one we don't get the details of.
The last, short section is in the present, looking back, telling us where he ended up and how, and what he makes of those earlier experiences.
This is the story of a life and shows that how one reacts to events is so important. As we see Dell's life, and the life of his sister Berner, we see how different reactions produced different outcomes. We see how Dell's acceptance of life and what it brings has brought him some measure of happiness in the end despite those earlier experiences.
A great book club book.


  1. I don't belong to a book club, but this does sound good. What a remarkable life for kids.

  2. Remarkable, but not good.