STARRED REVIEW
November 2014

Frank Bascombe gets his final say

By Richard Ford
With the publication of The Lay of the Land in 2006, it appeared Richard Ford had written the final chapter in the story of Frank Bascombe, one that began with The Sportswriter and continued with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. Happily, Ford has given readers one last chance to enjoy his knowing, wry protagonist.
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With the publication of The Lay of the Land in 2006, it appeared Richard Ford had written the final chapter in the story of Frank Bascombe, one that began with The Sportswriter and continued with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. Happily, Ford has given readers one last chance to enjoy his knowing, wry protagonist.

Like each of the novels in the Bascombe trilogy, the four long stories that make up Let Me Be Frank with You are set on the eve of a holiday, in this case Christmas 2012. Sixty-eight-year-old Frank has retired from selling real estate, but in the first story, “I’m Here,” which sets the mostly elegiac tone of the book, he returns to the home he once owned on the New Jersey shore to witness firsthand the devastation (“Nagasaki-by-the-sea”) wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

In the other stories, he has an unsettling encounter with a woman who once lived in the house he and his wife occupy, visits his ex-wife in the “state-of-the-art, staged-care facility” where she’s moved after her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and pays a call on a dying friend. Each of these stories is told in Frank’s candid, confiding voice, one Ford has so artfully channeled and kept fresh through the nearly 1,600 pages that comprise the four books.

For all the razor sharpness of his observations, Frank is no misanthrope. He spends some of his time greeting soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and reads novels to the blind. He’s a survivor who’s overcome prostate cancer and the loss of one son in childhood. Though his wit tends toward the acerbic, there’s an undercurrent of gratitude for everything that’s come to him in a life he feels he’s lived about as well as one man can. That’s no small accomplishment, Ford seems to say. Anyone who’s followed that life since it first appeared on the page can only feel a similar gratitude to Ford for having created it.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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