Canada, by Richard Ford, is the story of Del Parsons, who was abandoned at age 15 after his parents decided to rob a bank. Del is eventually transported across the border to Canada, where most of the plot unfolds. It’s there that Del learns about life—he is exposed to his benefactor’s mental illness, becomes an unwilling accomplice to murder, and reflects on how his parents’ flaws formed his and his sister’s lives.
Del is one of a set of twins, his sister being the larger of the two, more worldly, and less timid than Del. Del’s father Bev left the military after an under-the-table deal selling beef was discovered, and subsequent stints as a car salesman weren’t successful enough to keep him out of the black market business. When a deal goes bad and Bev is left with a substantial debt to pay, the notion of a bank robbery takes root in his mind. His wife Neeva (who characterizes herself as “weak” in her diary) agrees to be his accomplice. The robbery is not as successful as Bev had hoped, and resulted in his and Neeva’s arrest several days later. Del and his sister Berner are left alone in the house, and after a day or two, Berner decides to strike out on her own, presumably to follow a boyfriend to California. A friend of Neeva’s arrives later and takes Del to her brother’s hotel in a small town in Canada.
Canada encompasses a broad range of emotions. Bev’s romance with becoming a bank robber after his bumbling attempts at selling meat to a railroad buyer is wryly comical. Neeva is miserable in her marriage, feeling like she is blown about by circumstance, from her obligation to marry Bev because she was pregnant to participating in the bank robbery. Del is abandoned, more or less, after his parents’ arrest, and experiences more than a 15-year-old should be exposed to, which the reader senses makes him emotionally aloof.
Ford, whose previous book Independence Day, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/Faulkner Award, has another award-worthy novel in Canada. Canada was published in 2012 by Ecco.