I really saved and savored Richard Ford’s current novel, Canada, and finally finished it while in the air flying home from Toronto earlier this week. Immediately after completing it I began re-reading Chapter One, where 15-year old Dell Parsons opens the book by telling readers that
“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.”
I had written about the book at earlier stages in my reading, and now I can say with sure conviction that it is a great novel. The measured pace of it; the mounting force of Dell Parsons’ adolescent voice; the shocking violence that suddenly invades the seemingly placid narration; the amoral nature of many of the adults in the tale; the way Ford evokes character and place in Montana and the Canadian prairies, in short, sharp strokes that left me wanting to re-read his chiseled sentences–all these things combined to leave an indelible mark on my consciousness while reading it, and once I’d finished it, impelled me to want to start it all over again, eager to riddle out the narrative from the start. It’s one of those novels that teaches you to how read it, while you’re reading it.
I am aware that Canada has had mixed reviews–for instance, the reviewer in Publishers Weekly didn’t care for it, asserting that the first two parts of the book, set in Montana, then Saskatchewan, made little sense together–but I don’t agree. It all worked for me, and brilliantly. Now I want to go back and read more of Ford’s earlier work, and re-read the ones I read years ago.