August Book Club Choice: Canada: A Novel

GGC Book Club for Adults

Welcome to She Said/She Said, where GGC Members are our book reviewers from across Canada sharing their opinions about the book of the month.

This month we take a look at Canada: A Novel by Richard Ford, published by Harper Collins Canada. Our reviewers rate this book as follows:

This book is intended for adults aged 18 and older, and may contain profanity, scenes of violence and sexual content.


Canada: A Novel

Canada: A Novel

She Said: Melissa Moor
Kingston, Ontario

From Grand Falls, Montana to Windsor, Ontario. From precocious teenager to wizened teacher. From unsettled hopes to quiet reminiscences. Robert Ford’s, Canada tracks the life and thoughts of Dell Parsons as he is thrust into adulthood at age 15 when his ordinary parents are arrested for robbing a bank. On the porch of their small rented home, as Dell watches his parents being taken away, he begins a new life, a life that will send him over the border to Saskatchewan.

Canada: A Novel is an epic coming of age tale that explores the impact of parents’ choices on their children’s lives. Events and characters are explained, re-explained and contextualized, like a grandfather telling his story not only to pass it on, but also to come to terms with his own memories, trying to find a way to portray people and events in a manner that is both loving and realistic.

As the novel follows Dell’s life, time seems to slow down as he re-examines pivotal moments, looking for clues to the future. Through delicate descriptions of the intricacies of daily life, Ford draws the reader into Cold War-ear rural Montana. Carefully crafted descriptions of the main characters, built on moments of dialogue and astute observations make them feel like people you have known your whole life. They are the neighbours across the street, or the couple you always see at the grocery store, transported to another time and place.

Adult Members and mature teens alike will appreciate the novel’s exploration of mother-son and mother-daughter relationships.

If you prefer fast-paced novels full of action and adventure, Canada is not the best choice for you. However, if you are looking for a gently woven narrative that examines themes of lost connections and unanswered questions, Richard Ford’s Canada: A Novel is just that.

Guest blogger Melissa Moor

Guest blogger Melissa Moor

By guest blogger Melissa. Melissa is a Queen’s University student and a Guider with the  5th Ottawa Brownies, 17th Kingston Guides, 17th Kingston Pathfinders. Melissa has also written previous posts for Girl Guides of Canada’s blog: Using Children’s Books in Meetings, It’s Not a Box!, One Plus One Equals Brownie MathThe World Girls Want for the(ir) Future, Young Women’s World Forum 2011: Wrap-up from Switzerland, and was one of our reviewers for two books from our adult book club: Persuasion, and Everything We Ever Wanted.

She Said: Sarah Van Dusen
London, Ontario

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford, Canada describes the adolescence of Dell Parsons, whose parents robbed a bank when he was 15. The reader learns of his family’s complicated history, the events leading to the theft and the arrest of his parents. A family friend takes him to Canada where he can create a new life for himself, away from the threat of captivity or discrimination. The story is written almost as a memoir, with the final part occurring when Dell is nearing his retirement as a high school literature teacher.

For Dell, the town of Partreau, Saskatchewan is a safe haven, although not one that he particularly appreciates. While portrayed as a refuge, it is also implied that it is not uncommon for criminals to exploit the safety and acceptance that Canada provides to its inhabitants. Dell doesn’t realize and appreciate the difference between life in Saskatchewan and life in Montana until he is significantly older. Very little description is made to the physical landscape and beauty of the country.

The book moves slowly, with very little dialogue and a tendency to portray every minute detail that very quickly becomes tedious. Dell could be compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway for his tendency to report events with absolutely no description as to their emotional significance. While the plot has great potential for a powerful and moving story, especially with the author being a Pulitzer Prize winner, Canada is an underwhelming read.

Sarah Van Dusen. Photo by Rachel Henderson.

Sarah Van Dusen. Photo by Rachel Henderson.

Sarah Van Dusen is a Link Member with Girl Guides and a second-year student at Brescia University College in London, Ontario. Sarah wrote another book review for our book club: 100 Photos That Changed Canada. [Photo credit: Rachel Henderson]


Love books? We’ve just joined GoodReads and have added all of our book club choices to our list of read books.

This entry was posted in GGC Book Club and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply