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Thursday, October 17, 2013


by Richard Ford
(3/5 stars)

This is one of those literary novels that mostly makes you think the author's done better work in the past.  Like some of the later John Irving novels I've read it's not completely awful, but there isn't much impact to it.  It certainly doesn't surpass Ford's Pulitzer-winning "Independence Day."

Basically in 1960 Dell Parson's parents rob a bank in North Dakota to pay off some Native Americans.  The most implausible part is that no one takes the kids when the parents are arrested; they're just left there to fend for themselves even though they're 15.  I don't think that would happen even in 1960 in a small Montana town.  Most likely they'd have gone to the police station until a social worker could take them to an orphanage.  But anyway, the book is called Canada because Dell ends up in Saskatchewan, in an even worse town than the one in Montana.

The idea of fleeing to Canada to start a new life would have had a lot more impact back in 1968 or so with the Vietnam War in full swing and people going to Canada to avoid the draft.  In 2013 it comes off as quaint.

It's one of those novels too where the author uses a narrator who is probably the least interesting character in the book.  This only works when the characters around that character are far more interesting, which is just not the case here. (It's the case in Where You Belong by me.)

Anyway, for what it is the book is well written, but it really felt to me like a book out of time.  I suspect the only reason the book takes place so long in the past is that's the time period the author is familiar with as a teenager.  I think we're about at the point where a book taking place in 1960 would be considered "historical fiction" akin to a book about Henry VIII.  Sorry, septuagenarian authors but your golden days of yore are ancient history.

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