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Summary and book reviews of Independence Day by Richard Ford

Independence Day

by Richard Ford

Independence Day
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 1995, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 1996, 464 pages

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Book Summary

Frank Bascombe is no longer a sportswriter, yet he's still living in New Jersey, where he now sells real estate. Frank has high hopes for this 4th of July weekend; but Independence Day does not turn out as he'd planned, and this decent, bewildered, profoundly observant man is wrenched, gradually and inevitably, out of his private refuge.

Frank Bascombe is no longer a sportswriter, yet he's still living in Haddam, New Jersey, where he now sells real estate. He's still divorced, though his ex-wife, to his dismay, has remarried and moved along with their children to Connecticut. But Frank is happy enough in his work and pursuing various civic and entrepreneurial sidelines. He has high hopes for this 4th of July weekend: a search for a house for deeply hapless clients relocating to Vermont; a rendezvous on the Jersey shore with his girlfriend; then up to Connecticut to pick up his larcenous and emotionally troubled teenage son and visit as many sports halls of fame as they can fit into two days. Frank's Independence Day, however, turns out not as he'd planned, and this decent, appealingly bewildered, profoundly observant man is wrenched, gradually and inevitably, out of his private refuge. Independence Day captures the mystery of life — in all its conflicted glory — with grand humour, intense compassion and transfixing power.

Excerpt
Independence Day

In Haddam, summer floats over tree-softened streets like a sweet lotion balm from a careless, languorous god, and the world falls in tune with its own mysterious anthems. Shaded lawns lie still and damp in the early a.m. Outside, on peaceful-morning Cleveland Street, I hear the footfalls of a lone jogger, tramping past and down the hill toward Taft Lane and across to the Choir College, there to run in the damp grass. In the Negro trace, men sit on stoops, pants legs rolled above their sock tops, sipping coffee in the growing, easeful heat. The marriage enrichment class (4 to 6) has let out at the high school, its members sleepy-eyed and dazed, bound for bed again. While on the green gridiron pallet our varsity band begins its two-a-day drills, revving up for the 4th: "Boom-Haddam, boom-Haddam, boom-boom-ba-boom. Haddam-Haddam, up'n-at-'em! Boom-boom-ba-boom!"

Elsewhere up the seaboard the sky, I know, reads hazy. The heat closes in, a metal smell ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

The questions, discussion topics, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Richard Ford's Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. We hope they will aid your understanding of a novel that is at once casual and lyric, hilarious and poignant, irreverent and inspiring. Like its ordinary (and extraordinary) hero, Independence Day is not always what it seems— though its themes ring as clear as the carillon that wakes the opening day. A narrative celebration of the "hum of the human spirit," illuminated by tacit affirmation of the faith of mankind, this novel is as "bright and chancy" a spectacle as the ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Times

We have come to expect brilliant character sketches from Mr. Ford, and he doesn't disappoint us....With a mastery second to none, Richard Ford has created, and continues to develop in "Independence Day," a character we know as well as we know our next-door neighbors.

Publishers Weekly

In this sequel to The Sportswriter, Ford follows his middle-aged American everyman, Frank Bascombe, through the transformative events of a Fourth of July weekend.

The Spectator - Francis King

It is full of the kinds of phrases and even sentences that illuminate their subjects far more effectively than whole paragraphs, pages, or chapters by writers less gifted.

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