cover image Canada


Richard Ford. Ecco, $26.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-169204-8

The first novel in six years from Pulitzer Prize winner (for Independence Day) Ford is a tragic rural farrago composed of two awkwardly joined halves. In the late 1950s, in Great Falls, Mont., teenage twins Dell and Berner Parson have different concerns: Berner’s is whether to run away with her boyfriend; Dell’s is chess and beekeeping. Their comically mismatched parents—rakish, smalltime schemer Bev and brooding, Jewish Neeva—have problems beyond a joyless union. Bev’s stolen beef scheme goes awry, leaving him owing his Cree Indian accomplices. In desperation he robs a bank, roping his wife into the crime, and Dell, peering back much later, chronicles every aspect of the intricate but misguided plan, which left his parent incarcerated and he and Berner alone. Berner runs away, and Dell ends up in the care of a shady family friend at a hunting lodge in Canada, living an even more barren and lonely existence than he had in Great Falls. The book’s first half has the makings of a succinct rural tragedy, but Dell’s inquisition of the past is so deliberate that it eventually moves from poignant to played out. The Canadian section has a mythic strangeness, but adds little, as Dell remains a passive witness to the foolhardy actions of adults. A book from Ford is always an event and his prose is assured and textured, but the whole is not heavily significant. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (June)