There are lots of reasons to read a book. Some of those reasons are good (recommendation of a friend, favorite author) and some are bad (judging a book by its cover). I have to confess that I may not have chosen this book for exactly the right reasons. Okay, so maybe I noticed the book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and did a double take to see the name Canada across the front of the book.
A book called Canada? Seriously?
Then I read the flyleaf and realized that it wasn’t my usual kind of book. Bank robbery. Sad story. Set in Montana and North Dakota.
Then a few weeks later I picked up the book in the library and re-read the flyleaf. It’s amazing how much more attractive a book can be when it’s free. Plus, I discovered that the author was a Pulitzer Prize winner for a past book, and that’s got to be something, right?
About a third of the way into the book I thought I was going to give it a glowing review. The writing was beautiful. The tension of the plot was outstanding. Despite the fact that the narrator was a teenage boy, I was totally drawn into the story.
Then (Spoiler Alert) a really awful moment came. No good ever came of a scene where a sister slides into the brother’s bed – naked. Yeah. I put the book down for several days trying to decide if I should continue.
Eventually I did pick the book up again and mercifully the scene was barely mentioned again.
The book is broken up into three parts. The first is the story of the brother (Dell) and sister (Berner) living in Montana with their parents who rob a bank. When the parents are arrested, the children are left to fend for themselves. Eventually, a friend of their mother’s comes to rescue them, but the sister has already fled.
Book Two follows Dell in his new life in Saskatchewan (hey, I spelled that right on the first try!) working at a sketchy hotel in the middle of nowhere. It seems trouble follows Dell and after he’s witnessed/been part of more crime, he’s shipped off to Winnipeg.
Book Three catches of with Dell decades later after he’s built a life for himself in Toronto. He has to come to terms with craziness of his life.
All of that doesn’t encompass how well this book is written. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of life in rural Saskatchewan in the 1960s. It’s hard to believe life could be that different so recently.
So, if a little incest doesn’t scare you off, this is a good book.