Richard Ford’s breathtaking seventh novel, Canada, offers some tips on how to live a life, none of which are new or particularly revolutionary: perspective, moderation, acceptance. But it’s how Ford dispenses these lessons—through the charmingly earnest lens of sixty-six-year-old Dell Parsons, our narrator—that makes Canada so optimistic despite its dark content, so essential for its simplicity, and far and away the best novel of 2012.
The opening lines make clear some great awfulness will follow. “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed,” Dell says from 2010, fifty years later. “Then about the murders, which happened later.” While these events are at the center of the first two sections of the three-part novel, Ford devotes little time to the crimes in the narrative—something he’s answered to in interviews—focusing instead on Dell’s family history, as well as his general day-to-day home life in Great Falls, Montana. Dell and his twin sister Berner are different kinds of fifteen-year-olds: Berner’s a little more wild, stronger, daring; Dell is eager to get better at chess, anxious to learn but not particular smart, and interested in beekeeping. Continue reading