I expect Richard Ford thought he was writing some substantial when he penned *Canada,* and if the weight of the book is to be the sole judge of success, it is indeed of weighty matter. Alas, we readers take more into account than the weight of the book (and perhaps this will be of increasing truth as the ebook encroaches on our habitual Sunday effort of hoisting books above our heads while sprawled out on the couch with the concomitant cognitive dissonance where we think the book incredible if only to justify the sheer physical effort of reading it) and find this book curiously short on the vital elements we might expect from a Pulitzer prize winner such as a compelling plot, developed characters or something approaching a complex or compelling thematic question.
Instead we’re left with 300 odd trying pages about the parent’s bank robbery (no spoiler, it’s all revealed on the first page). In fact, I’d rather it was a spoiler because then it might feel like the 300 pages were leading up to something, rather than, as they are, a painful effort to cloak plodding plot in weighty short sentences that herald the end of another short chapter: “I felt it was so.” “I never saw him again.” “I wanted it that way.” etc. etc. that all culminate in what we knew was coming the whole time and had only hoped would be done already.
The second part – the murder early alluded to (also on the first page) – might be expected to be more interesting were it not for the improbability of the events, the lack of interest I had for the protagonist and the total inconsequence of what transpires: it appears that even Dell doesn’t care what takes place, so much so that the novel – in another demonstration of heavy-handed abrupt chapter ending – moves off to the “epilogue” third chapter that (I suppose) is meant to deal the blow of “we all have ordinary lives” or perhaps “there are stand-out moments in our lives, but they happen early on and are often not of our doing.” So that, in the end, the moments that make our lives consequential – at least for Dell (that’s another problem! the book doesn’t in any way speak to a “human” condition or create a character believable enough for me to think it could happen, more a well physically described, but poorly realized character) – are not our own, but happen *to* us.
This book happened to me. And I’m hopeful that nothing of consequence will come from it.