Canada by Richard Ford

Canada tells the story of Dell Parson, a 15-year-old boy living in Great Falls Montana in 1960 with his parents. Father Bev was a bomber pilot in the war, and still works for the Air Force, which means the family has moved around America, never settling too long in one place. This causes resentment from Dell’s twin sister Berner, who Dell looks up to. She is smart and sassy and has a boyfriend, while Dell is more introverted, likes chess and collecting bees.

The twins’ mother Neeva comes from a Jewish family who don’t take kindly to their daughter marrying a Southern Air Force pilot and so the the twins do not see their grandparents. Dell, who narrates this story, wonders how a studious and intelligent woman wound up married to a man like his father who is light-hearted and easy-going.

Central to this family’s story are the events that lead to Dell’s father committing a bank robbery and his wife’s willingness to be his accomplice. Ford takes us deep into the mindset of Dell’s reaction to his parents’ big secret which raises questions about how we perceive our parents.

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.

Michael Awosoga-Samuel is from Readings Carlton