“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”
As opening lines go, that is a doozy. Completely hooks you in to what you think will be an exciting story. Dell Parsons and his twin sister Berner (really) are shocked to learn their parents Beverly and Neeva (really) have, in financial desperation, robbed a bank. When the law catches up with them, Dell is spirited across the border to Canada, into the care of Arthur Remlinger, who is harbouring secrets of his own.
Sometimes, nothing happens in a book. And when it’s done well, that can still be wonderful to read. The Crimson Petal & The White, for example, is one of my favourites and pretty much nothing happens there for 900 pages. This book is the opposite. The excitement suggested by those opening sentences quickly vanishes. Ford takes what should have been a gripping page turner and smothers it in page after page of painfully turgid, overly lengthy exposition.
Continually telling the reader that something happened before backtracking to spend countless pages leading back up to it is really not exciting either. It’s hard to build any kind of momentum when we have already been told, often times more than once, what the destination will be. I found it impossible to care about anything that happened in this book, or anyone that it happened to. I read this on the strength of how much I loved Independence Day and how much praise it’s been receiving. I won’t be reading another Richard Ford novel. Ever.