cover image Wildlife


Richard Ford. Atlantic Monthly Press, $18.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-348-9

Set in Montana, this precisely structured novel owes much to the style and subjects of Ford's praised short-story collection, Rock Springs . For a few days during the fall of 1960, 16-year-old Joe confronts his parents' frailties when his father loses his job and takes off to fight forest fires near the Canadian border while his mother begins an affair with an older man. Looking back on a not-so-simple love triangle from the perspective of adulthood, yet recalling his emotions as a sensitive, confused teenager, Joe's first-person narrative beautifully reveals the melancholy and pain of the spectacle he observed and was compelled to involve himself in--grown-ups who behave like children, children who are forced to act like adults--and displays Ford's remarkable ability to capture distinctive voices. While the complex relationships within families are a common theme in his work--along with the self-destructiveness of those whose lives and loves have gone bad, and the pressing need to live without illusions--his short, bittersweet fourth novel details how family strife is ``nature's way,'' and again proves Ford to be a gifted chronicler of the down-and-out. (June)