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Summary and book reviews of Canada by Richard Ford

Canada

by Richard Ford

Canada
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2013, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

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.

"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.

Part One
Chapter One

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.

Our parents were the least likely two people in the world to rob a bank. They weren't strange people, not obviously criminals. No one would've thought they were destined to end up the way they did. They were just regular - although, of course, that kind of thinking became null and void the moment they did rob a bank.


My father, Bev Parsons, was a country boy born in 1923, in Marengo County, Alabama, and came out of high school in 1939, burning to be in the Army Air Corps - the branch that became the Air Force. He went in at Demopolis, trained at Randolph, near San Antonio, wanted to be a fighter pilot, but lacked the aptitude and so ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

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.

Publishers Weekly

A book from Ford is always an event and his prose is assured and textured, but the whole is not heavily significant.

Library Journal

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.

Kirkus

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.

Reader Reviews

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

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

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Beyond the Book

Saskatchewan

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...

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