Canada, by Richard Ford is my first Goodreads First-Reads win! (And my first ARC.) It made me very excited to read the book... Besides the fact that the novel had one of the best opening lines I've read in a long time.
"First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later."
Even if I didn't win the book, how could I resist a line like that? (Right after I found out I won it, I saw it on a huge display table while out shopping. It made me so happy.)
Canada was a deep, thought-provoking novel. It was brilliantly, artistically written. Canada is the story of Dell Parsons’ fifteenth year. It was the most important year of his life, given that’s when the robbery and murders happened.
I spent the first half of the book wanting to know what happened to Dell’s parents. I spent the second half hoping Dell doesn’t have a hand in the murders. I was so eager to read about how Dell’s parents ended up committing a robbery. There was so much build-up. I started to feel like Ford was taking a long time to get to the robbery. He described every scene in vivid detail. He described the complexities of fifteen-year-old Dell’s emotions. It was beautifully written, but I felt it was too long, especially since we knew the outcome – the robbery.
The second half was more interesting. There was still a lot of description, but I felt that because we didn’t know for certain who was going to be murdered and exactly who was going to be the murderer, there was more of a mystery. Though, this is not a mystery novel. I’ve seen it categorized as such, but when you find out the ending at the beginning, there isn’t much of a mystery.
(Minor Spoilers) One problem I had with the novel was the title. I expected more Canada to be in, Canada. The first half of the novel takes place in Montana. Canada is only mentioned twice in passing. Each time I got a little excited, but then nothing. It’s not until Part Two that the story finally shifts to Canada, specifically Saskatchewan. Maybe the book should have been titled “Saskatchewan,” but I don’t think it would sell as well. Canada, its differences from America and its role as a destination of escape is important by the end of the book. I suppose the title had me expecting something different. If the author was actually Canadian (he lives in Maine), it might have had more of what I had expected. Now that I write this, you know what? The title was fine. It was just me. (End Spoilers)
Richard Ford managed to create a character that felt like a real person. You could believe that Dell Parsons was a teacher, with a big secret. He could be anyone. He could have been your high school teacher or your next door neighbour. Dell's voice was thoughtful and introspective, like someone really looking back at their life. It almost felt like you were reading a memoir. I really enjoyed the tone and the feeling it gives you. It invites the reader to really connect with Dell. If you like deep, thought-provoking, literary fiction with a twist, then pick up Richard Ford’s Canada. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.