In 1956, Dell Parsons’ family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did after the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Their mother Neeva – shy, artistic – was alienated from their father’s small-town world. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that Dell’s parents decided to rob the bank. They weren’t reckless people.
In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across Montana, his life hurtles towards the unknown; a hotel in a deserted town, the violent and enigmatic Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself. But, as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of a border.
This book was always going to be a stretch for our Monday Night group. Ford’s somewhat cold and clinical style left most of us feeling his characters unexplored and one dimensional. This is not to say we didn’t find the story compelling. In fact, most of us were intrigued by 15- year-old Dell’s narrative. His and twin sister Berner’s bizarre, dysfunctional family life demanded our attention … and a conclusion! Sadly, some of us could not muster the emotional attachment it took to continue with the second half and simply lost interest.
But for those of us who read on, it became a macabre struggle of survival for young Dell, despite all the odds pitted against him. Something that both Delia and Cheryl found fascinating. Sandra too was captivated by this dark and, to some degree, depressing tale.
It put us all on the trail of ‘parentless children’ and how they can literally fall through the cracks of a welfare system. Something we were sure could easily happen in the backwaters of Montana during Dell’s time, the mid ‘50s.
Slow beginning aside, the story escalated into a thought provoking and interesting read that left us pondering the many loose ends that the author left untouched … Dell’s evident escape to a better life, and his sister’s unknown future, to name a few. A neat and tidy story Canada may not be, but it kept the majority of our group sufficiently enthralled and more importantly, wanting more.