3.0 92
by Richard Ford

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Dell Parsons tiene quince años cuando sus padres roban un banco y son detenidos. Su mundo y el de su hermana gemela Berner se desmorona en ese momento. Berner decide huir de la casa familiar en Montana. A Dell, un amigo de la familia le ayudará a cruzar la frontera canadiense con la esperanza de que allí pueda reiniciar su vida en mejores…  See more details below


Dell Parsons tiene quince años cuando sus padres roban un banco y son detenidos. Su mundo y el de su hermana gemela Berner se desmorona en ese momento. Berner decide huir de la casa familiar en Montana. A Dell, un amigo de la familia le ayudará a cruzar la frontera canadiense con la esperanza de que allí pueda reiniciar su vida en mejores condiciones. Una bellísima y profunda novela sobre la pérdida de la inocencia, sobre los lazos familiares y sobre el camino que uno recorre para alcanzar la madurez.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Ford once shot a book by a woman who'd given him a bad review. It wasn't a terrible review — it had its qualifications, even its moments of high praise — but that didn't stop Ford from mailing Alice Hoffman her own ventilated work as a sort of underworld warning. When Colson Whitehead demolished Ford's story collection A Multitude of Sins in the pages of The New York Times, Ford decided not to do anything rash. Instead, he waited two years for the chance to see Whitehead in person. Then he spat on him. Whitehead took this in stride: "I would like to warn the many other people who panned the book that they might want to get a rain poncho, in case of inclement Ford."

Good one. Yet, given that Whitehead had already enjoyed his pen-is- mightier moment in the review itself, one can't help an atavistic wish that he'd simply punched Ford's lights out. There's a point at which being the bigger man is as much a reflex as putting up one's dukes. And it is precisely Ford's willingness to be the smaller man — to indulge crazy impulses, to embarrass himself — that qualifies him to write a book like Canada, which is largely about how a single moment of weakness or folly can hurl one into unfamiliar country, with no hope of returning home. Fans of Ford's excellent Bascombe trilogy know his flair for human frailty, human perplexity, but in Canada Ford mingles with a far lower class of men.

Canada might as well be a deliberate rejoinder to Whitehead's review, which alleged that Ford was preoccupied with the tedious affairs and "lukewarm lust" of white upper-middle-class professionals. Canada's hero is a child in Montana, a boy named Dell Parsons whose life is ruined by his parents' decision to rob a North Dakota bank. Bev and Neeva Parsons, an affable, fatally optimistic southerner and his more circumspect Jewish wife, are no Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. They aren't driven by a lust for adventure, nor are they even very much in love. (Their union is more or less the fault of getting pregnant with twins, Dell and his sister, Berner, during "one hasty encounter after meeting at a party honoring returning airmen" in 1945.) Only Bev is even properly a criminal; it is his ill-advised scheme, involving Indians and trafficking in stolen cattle, that lands the family in trouble with the wrong sort of people. Desperate times lead to where they always do.

We know from page one that the robbery will occur, but Ford takes his time getting there. Along the way, one develops a sense that fiction writers — Ford, at least — might make the best criminals. Ford's elegant description of what goes wrong, a perfect inversion of what Bev and Neeva expect to go right, is summed up by Dell's pitch- black comic insight: "My parents simply did not understand life in small prairie towns, where everyone notices everything. . . . As it turned out, my father wasn't all that memorable to anyone in Creekmore — until it was time to testify against him, when he became very memorable." This passage, and the list of missteps that precedes it, and the pages of snowballing panic and recklessness preceding that, suggest that Ford might enjoy a second career as a noir screenwriter.

But Canada is not a crime novel. Ford's meticulous construction of the Parsonses' brief and undistinguished criminal career is impressive, but only half the story. What becomes of Dell, his parents having been carted off and his sister having run away, is alluded to in the title: He must cross a border. The life he desired, the one he was on the cusp of having — school, chess, beekeeping — is behind him forever. Once Dell is smuggled by Mildred, a family friend, to Saskatchewan, where he becomes the charge of her bachelor brother, the novel takes on an almost numinous life of its own. In Ford's telling, our northern neighbor is an uncanny hinterland, similar to America in trivial ways but forbiddingly different in others.

[Mildred] said Canada had dollars for money, but theirs were different colored and was sometimes mysteriously worth more than ours. She said Canada had its own Indians and treated them better than we treated ours, and Canada was bigger than America, though it was mostly empty and inhospitable and covered with ice much of the time. I rode along thinking about these things and how they could become true just by passing two huts marooned in the middle of nowhere.
Beyond this point of entry — from which there can be no return, lest Dell become property of the State of Montana — lies an experience that places Canada squarely in the line of Oliver Twist and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dell's keeper, Arthur Remlinger, a dapper and mysterious hotelier, and Charley Quarters, his man Friday, are Ford's answer to Fagin and Sykes, to the Duke and the Dauphin. (The use to which they put Dell is unexpected and better left unsaid.) Ford has achieved something here that few authors can carry off — and, frankly, that nothing in his Bascombe books suggested an ability to do. He has written a book for adults from which any brave and curious child could derive a vast, if necessarily partial, benefit. This is a better thing, to be sure, than what we tend to get today: books for children from which adults imagine themselves to derive some nourishment.

That it might serve as YA literature the way books by Dickens or Twain do is not the main value of Canada,merely a measure of its quality. The cruel and immutable realities it unveils for poor Dell — that life turns on a dime; that people (even our parents) may not be what they seem or what we wish them to be; that we should be prepared for the unfamiliar — are our common lot. They should be learned early, and, sad to say, revisited often.

A writer living in southern Connecticut, Stefan Beck has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, The Weekly Standard, The New Criterion, and other publications. He also writes a food blog, The Poor Mouth, which can be found at

Reviewer: Stefan Beck

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Colm Toibin
“This is a brilliant and engrossing portrait of a fragile American family and the fragile consciousness of a teenage boy. It is also fascinating in the way it reveals the plot in the opening page and then winds backwards, offering a more and more intimate version of the story.”

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Canada 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
libsue More than 1 year ago
Bev Parsons and his wife Neeva are a mismatched pair. He is a smiling gregarious six-foot tall retired Air Force bombardier from the south. The daughter of Jewish immigrants, she is an intense and aloof diminutive school teacher. A hasty marriage due to an impending birth brings these two together, and an equally hasty decision to rob a bank tears the entire family apart leaving their fifteen year old twins Dell and Berner orphaned. Neeva, anticipating an impending arrest, had arranged for a co-worker to intercept the twins before they could be placed into the care of the state, but the two still spend a few days adrift. Berner decides to follow her own path. Dell is transported over the border and into Canada and the care of Arthur Remlinger. Remlinger is an expat American educated and ejected from Harvard whose outward demeanor fools few. Told majestically from Dell’s perspective Canada is his story. He is an unremarkable fifteen year old who’s only wish is to start the coming school year by joining the chess club yet finds himself as far away from normal as possible. Dell survives to convey a life lived and suggests the means to get there. Richard Ford has managed to bring the characters and the Canadian prairie to life. The story unfolds slowly with the introduction of the characters, but then the pages fly. I do have a few issues with the novel. It truly is a slow go for about 100 pages, and the ending did seem a bit rushed, but overall Ford paints pictures with words and the time spent was well worth the effort.
Rance More than 1 year ago
Excellent novel. Great characters. Dark humor. Ford's novels are always entertaining and enlightening. One of my favorite authors. I was waiting patiently for this book to be published, and I wasn't disappointed.
Rock62 More than 1 year ago
Canada is an intimate story of a young man's maturation. It may seem boring and slow because Ford is locked into the cadence of a teenager's sense of time. Like Dell, acclimate yourself to the daily rhythms of his existence and relish this thoughtful gem.
Duffy52 More than 1 year ago
While I wouldn't recommend it to a friend I am glad I read it. The writing is well done but it was very over-hyped. I hated the long story about the geese because I am an animal lover and if I hadn't pushed myself to page 100 I would never have finished it. There were occasional learning points but overall nothing I could recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story of about a life-changing/determining six months in the life of a 15 year old boy as told by his 65 year old self is both an easy and a difficult read. Easy first - the languid first-person account of external events that tear 15-year old Dell from all life's moorings - parents, twin sister, hope-for friends & future - is so well written. Writing a review involves remembering the reading experience, and my recollection seems very much like having listened attentively to the 65-year old Dell tell the story, relaxed and analytical, emotionally detached from the events of the past. The difficult aspect of reading this book is getting through the detailed examination of very small & subtle demonstrations of bad judgment that are the hallmarks of the self-centered. It makes for a very slow start - not to mention exasperation felt towards the characters. All in all, I'm glad to have read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An insightful and provocative study of life and its struggles, Ford leads the reader to examine how the good and bad ... all of it ... weave together to make us who we are. While not a fast or easy read, it is an outstanding novel and study of the human condition.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Not so much a coming of age story as a long, meandering story. All the answers are given at the beginning. Parents rob bank. Sister runs away. He goes to, wait for it... Canada. The escape to Canada seems forced and contrived. And the narrator never learns anything. The best thing about this book - and it's not a little thing -- is the writing. The writing is gorgeous. Too bad the substance is lacking. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was filled with promise, but halfway through the book it just didn't deliver. He is a wonderful writer, but CANADA isn't his best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first and last Richard Ford book. BORING! The pace was dog slow, plot was absent, with a couple random bizarre incidents and character traits tossed in. I finished it only because it was my book group's pick. The sole redeeming quality of this sad tale was some of Dell's reflections sprinkled throughout the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This sounded like a good book. It felt more like ramblings from a wannabe writer. Boring at times, interspersed with a few interesting pages. I was glad when it ended as there really wasnt much of a plot. 2.5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very slow moving, a very long winded descriptive novel of his life. I could not finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You get what you pay for another but thank goodness it is not yesterday's nook porno pick by the way what's with alk the odd A add in reviews? The same person under different anons aska intiaks? page counter
Elucke More than 1 year ago
Wow, I made it to part two but I give up. This book has unlikable boring characters & repeats stuff over & over. Also did not appreciate the relationship between the siblings. That was unnecessary & added nothing to the story. Save yourself some time & money & read something else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good story, but a long LONG book and not related to its length. The author should have left a little more for the reader to wrestle rather than seemingly presenting this child's every thought. Good book. Could have been great.
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?l ? bjttx M.m..mccdknklicwroltrergrf
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Terrible book.  I would have stopped reading in the beginning as it never got any better-----but I read it for book club
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back to creative writing evening class 101.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago