Review: Canada by Richard Ford
Canada by Richard Ford
Publisher: Ecco. May 2012
Genre: Literary fiction
First Lines: First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.
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So. Canada. This is a book about a 15-year-old boy named Dell whose parents decide to rob a bank, which completely disrupts his and his twin sister's lives. The story is told by an older Dell looking back on the whole experience, but he manages to keep his younger self's perspective.
It's a very quiet book. All of the strange events (bank robbery, crossing the border to run from the law, etc.) are presented very calmly. Most of the time, they're even sort of spoiled by the narrator before they even take place. But the point doesn't really seem to be to thrill the reader with the events, it's too look more closely at them and the people doing such things. That's my issue with the book, though. I don't think that it can't have both aspects.
Almost the entire first half of the book is set up for the bank robbery that is mentioned in the first line. I wouldn't normally have that much of an issue with that (probably), but it was a lot of the narrator explaining how his parents, the robbers, are rather than showing us through their actions. Then, the second half, after the robbery actually occurs. I think I would've liked it better if it was a bit less subdued and a bit more consequential. But I can't deny that the adult characters Dell got thrown into the lives of were interesting. And I did love how Ford represented small, dying off towns. His writing isn't embellished (normally a con for me), but his descriptions of these places still left a very strong impression on me.
So. Canada. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations. I liked the characters, I liked most of the points about people/events that the narrator made (though he didn't necessarily need to say all of them outright to us). But I found myself excited to be finished so I could go on to read something else. Not the best sign.
"I had more positive views. Which made me feel that although I hadn't been taught to assimilate, a person perhaps assimilated without knowing it. I was doing it now. You did it alone, and not with others or for them. And assimilating possibly wasn't so hard and risky and didn't need to be permanent. This state of mind conferred another freedom on me and was like starting life over, or as I've already said, becoming something else--but someone who was not stalled but moving, which was the nature of things in the world. I could like it or hate it, but the world would change around me no matter how I felt."
"The blocky shadows of the grain cars and tanker cars and gondolas swayed and bumped along, sparks crackling off the brakes, lights dimmed and yellow in the caboose. Often a man stood on the rear platform--the way I'd seen photographs of politicians giving forceful speeches to great crowds--staring back at the closing silence behind him, the red tail-light not quite illuminating his face, unaware anyone was watching."
Outlandishness Rating: 5/10
Certainly some of the characters are odd (i.e. bank robbers), but they were portrayed in such an almost bland way. I mean, the point was to say like it could be anyone or normalcy so closely borders that which is strange. So I get it. But it still took something away from it, I think.
People who already like Richard Ford or don't mind a slower paced, subdued book.