Book of the Week: Canada by Richard Ford

Canada by Richard Ford is our new Book of the Week.


Richard Ford is a name that calls to mind some of the biggest achievements of late 20th-century American literature - not in the least a Pulitzer Prize win for Independence Day, as well as novels such as The Sportswriter and Lay of the Land.

Now comes his latest, Canada, a story that is as much about ‘regular people tricked by circumstance and bad instincts’ as it is the sprawling, unknowable landscape of the country itself. Our characters here are the Parsons - 15-year-old Dell, shy and studious and a follower of quiet pursuits such as chess and beekeeping, his more exuberant twin sister Berner and their doomed parents, Bev and Neeva.

Bev, a former pilot in World War II, is optimistic and easy-scheming in nature, while his wife Neeva - artistic, educated and from an immigrant Jewish family - finds herself unhappy with her lot and life in small-town Montana. It is their dual natures and desperation that will lead both such ordinary people to a terribly unordinary fate - moved by poverty, threats and mutual dissatisfaction to rob a bank and fail to get away with it, paying in the worst way.

In the aftermath, Berner leaves for San Francisco while Dell is taken by a family friend north to rural Saskatchewan, Canada, to live in a small settlement on a prairie, where he ecks out a lonely life of harsh labour, isolation and strange encounters.

According to our reviewer, Michael Awosoga-Samuel:

‘Ford has written a novel about what happens when we deal with our parents’ faults and the immediate impact of that upon our lives. He portrays his characters in their rawest and most emotional state and raises questions of responsibility for the choices we make and how we accept the consequences for them. A most exceptional novel.’

Canada is out now in paperback ($24.95). Read an extract.