Richard Ford’s Canada is narrated by the now 66 year-old Dell, who describes events that occurred in 1960 when he was a cerebral 15 year-old and his life was catapulted from the ordinary to the extraordinary by the uncharacteristic and startlingly naive bank robbery committed by his parents. We receive the wisdom of hindsight through his adult perspective as he recalls the poignant and melancholy life of his 15 year-old self.
“First, I’ll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders which happened later.” The first line of Canada leaves us in no doubt about the two main incidents in the novel and the reader is urged to read on to discover the circumstances of these events and the resulting fallout for Dell and his twin sister, Berner.
The reader is inextricably drawn into Dell’s life as the story unfolds. He is a lonely child before the robbery, as a result of moving bases in America with his Air Force father, and becomes even lonelier and more isolated once he arrives at a bleak and unforgiving frontier town in Saskatchewan, Canada. The abandonment and exile that he experiences as a result of choices made by others garners sympathy from the reader as he attempts to make the best of a life that has been thrown into chaos by circumstances beyond his control.
Canada is a beautifully written novel. It uses descriptive language that is evocative of life in Great Falls, Montana in America and for the second half of the book an isolated small town in Saskatchewan, Canada. The novel explores the concept of borders, the crossing of a national border from America to Canada to start a new life, as well as the crossing of a moral border that Dell’s parents take when they make the pivotal decision to rob a bank to get themselves out of difficulty and make a new start.
Ford won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Independence Day. He will be speaking to Chip Rolley on 15th July at City Recital Hall as an ‘out of season’ event of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Bookings here