"First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later."
When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons' parents rob a bank, his sense of a happy, knowable life is forever shattered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life across a threshold that can never be uncrossed.
His parents' arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American, whose suave reserve masks a dark and violent nature.
Undone by the calamity of his parents' robbery and arrest, Dell struggles under the vast prairie sky to remake himself and define the adults he thought he knew and loved. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness.
A true masterwork of haunting and spectacular vision from one of our greatest writers, Canada is a profound novel of boundaries traversed, innocence lost and reconciled, and the mysterious and consoling bonds of family. Told in spare elegant prose, resonant and luminous, it is destined to become a classic.
Canada is a big book in every sense of the word - set against a vast, stark landscape, dealing with heavy metaphors. It is a beautifully crafted novel; yet its languid pace, especially in the first half of the book, will unfortunately lose many readers. In the end, Canada emerges as a wonderful, deeply contemplative look at some of the most essential questions of all our lives: How do you deal with loss? Are there second acts in life? Exactly how fluid are boundaries? (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
In subdued, even flat, prose, Ford lays out the central mysteries of Dell's young life, and although the narrative voice here is neither as compelling nor as rich as that found in Ford's great Bascombe trilogy, devoted Ford fans will find that it resonates well beyond the page.
A book from Ford is always an event and his prose is assured and textured, but the whole is not heavily significant.
Segmented into three parts, the narrative slowly builds into a gripping commentary on life's biggest question: Why are we here? Ford's latest work successfully expands our understanding of and sympathy for humankind.
Starred Review. At the start of the novel's coda, when Dell explains that he teaches his students 'books that to me seem secretly about my young life,' he begins the list with The Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby. Such comparisons seem well-earned.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Val Borders The book is not really about Canada (half of it takes place in Montana) but about borders and a lack of borders...and how a single event that one has no control over can catapult an ordinary life into chaos in the blink of an eye...I was hooked...I... Read More
Rated of 5
by bobbie d Go Back to Canada The New York Times review was excellent. My husband and I couldn't wait to get our hands on this book. I read about 50 pages and have no idea why anyone would want to read this. Picked it up a couple of times and finally decided it was a waste of... Read More
The vast prairies of Saskatchewan, where one can easily be "unimaginably bored" are the perfect setting for Richard Ford's Canada. Bordering Montana and North Dakota, it is one of two Canadian provinces that is completely landlocked (Alberta is the other one) and has no geographical features distinguishing its boundaries. It is over 250,000 square miles (over 650,000 square kilometers) - almost the size of Texas. The province's name has its origins in the Plains Indian word, kisiskatchewan, meaning "the river that flows swiftly"; a reference to the Saskatchewan River.
Interestingly, the city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan province is named after the saskatoon berry, which is often used by the province's aboriginal people in making pemmican. Pemmican is a kind of meat dish made with fat drippings and protein that uses saskatoon or other berries as preservatives and to add flavor. The dehydrated version is considered a good snack to have on long hikes.
Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice.
Suffused with Munro's clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, these tales about departures and beginnings, accidents and dangers, and outgoings and homecomings both imagined and real, paint a radiant, indelible portrait of how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
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