Author: Richard Ford
Copyright: 2012 ISBN: 978-0-06-169203-1
Publisher: Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
Have you ever read a book that took time you really didn’t what to spend reading, but for some unknown compelling reason you kept reading?
Canada by Richard Ford was that book.
Del Parson, a fifteen year old, experiences life through a looking glass. He participated and yet he did not participate. He fell in love with chess, but had never played the game except with his twin sister, Berner. Every piece had a name, a meaning, a placement, a prescript way of participating in the game. The rules never changed, yet the game always changed.
Del’s and Berner’s life was defined by their mother, Neeva. Her life changed when she met Bev Parson in Seattle, Washington and she had to get married. She was supposed to be a poet, a college professor, married to someone above Bev Parson’s station in life. This simple fact was the cause of disharmony in the harmony of life. Since Bev was in the Service they moved from city to city finally ending up in Great Falls, Montana. She taught her children not to become involved, but to observe those around them.
Bev Parson, loved flying, loved his children, and even loved his wife. His only regret: he would never fly planes for the air force. His southern background, good looks help him to obtain the rank of Major. He was content. Their transfer to Great Falls, Montana was the catalyst of change. After five years of supplying meat to the mess hall, the commander and a little left over for his family, Bev takes the fall for the established means of obtaining meat. He was forced to retire not as a Major, but as a Lieutenant, and for the first time he was on the job market as a civilian. In a town the size of Great Falls the job opportunities were few when you have no education; selling cars, selling land and real estate. Bev tried both, he was never outstanding at either, but he was not a failure. He came up with a scheme to sell meal to the railroad while he learned the land and real estate business; this would provide the money to support his family.
Del was an observer, a believer in his dad’s ideas, not knowing this would change his life forever. He listened; he remembered a time in Texas when his dad took him to see the Bonnie and Clyde car. He recalled comments his father had made about bank robbers.
But robbing a bank was something someone else did not your father. As best that Del could understand; the plan was to sell fresh meat to the railroad which came from steeling a cow, slaughtering it, and delivering it to the railroad. The Porter would pay Bev, and Bev would pay the Indians. Sounds simple enough after all it works for many years at the Fort.
But the Porter, would didn’t trust the Indians and had little use for Bev, kept needing more and more meat. The night that four cows were butchered and deliver forever changed everyone future. The money owed was four hundred dollars in the beginning. The Porter transfer to Chicago and Bev was left with the debt. Now, anyone who would rustle cattle in the dark of the night isn’t exactly an upstanding, understanding person or persons and they demand their money. The debt was up to two thousand dollars by the time everything changed.
Bev’s scheme was to rob a bank. It was a simple plan; scout out the area, find a bank in North Dakota take less then ten thousand and the government would cover it and no one would be hurt. He would come back to Great Falls settle down, pay off the Indians and maybe have a little nest egg for learning the land and real estate business. He had a knack for it, he was friendly turning on the southern charm, and this was the right way to clear this matter up. He never once thought about the consequences. Neeva went along with it, maybe they deserved each other. She believed this would give her the money needed to leave Bev after all they weren’t suited. She graduated from college he did not. She was a poet, he worked puzzles. She would take the Del and Berner to Seattle. Her life would become the life she was supposed to live.
Yes, they were caught. You drive a red and white Chevrolet into a rural area, talk in a southern accent and wave a gun in front of people; they are going to remember you. The parents went to jail, two fifteen year olds were left on their own. Berner runs away to California and Del is sent to Canada to live with Mildred’s brother. Mildred was a friend of their mother’s. The brother was something else, Harvard educated.
Del lives for six months with a turbulent future. Once again he is an observer of life; it is a life full of fears, loneliness, and darkness. Del dreamed of something better, he even tried for something better. He could have left Canada gone back to America. He could have taken the bus to California. He chose to stay in Canada.
Decisions made by others have a direct effect on whom we are and who we become. Canada through the eyes of Del deals with how decisions and consequences can and will affect a life.