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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet Downshift In Life Expectations, November 12, 2006
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This review is from: The Lay of the Land (Hardcover)
"This novel showcases many of Mr. Ford's gifts: his ability to capture the nubby, variegated texture of ordinary life; his unerring ear for how ordinary people talk; his talent for conjuring up subsidiary characters with a handful of brilliant brushstrokes.
MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times

Frank Bascombe, real estate manager, aka sportswriter and novelist, is in the prime of his life. He is on what he describes as ""the permanent phase" of his life, the period when life "starts to look like a destination rather than a journey". He is 55, his second wife has left him for her first husband, he has prostate cancer, his daughter is moving from her lesbian phase, to what exactly? His son has a girlfriend and wants a relationship with his father. But Paul, the son is overbearing and, what was it that Frank did not give him? His first wife, Anne, calls and wants to start another relationship, But, do they really love each other? These and other life problems all emerge within three days of this 500 page novel.

These three days take place in 2000. I began to see the irony in Frank's thinking when he said his life was going down a permanent road, just when the election of Bush has just taken place. There is no peace in America or in Frank's life at this time. We find that events and tragedy's spring up around us at all times. Frank realizes he has fear for 'The Lay of the Land' in 2000, and, as we all know 9/11/2001 is just around the corner. We have the luxury of looking back as Frank tells his story.

Some parts of this novel are too limiting, the explosion in the local hospital, and one of the police officers must question him as a suspect but that never occurs. His first wife has but a small part in the novel, and it is confusing. I wonder if her part is to explain that we are all looking for love and may be confused about where we will find it. The next door neighbors are strange and the final chapter leaves no gratification. People come and people go in these three days, and we learn alot about some and more about others. Frank is a man that we feel some sympathy for, but do we really like him? Yes, he has his faults, and I see some of mine in him. This is a book to ponder and re-read. Frank is wondering what his last days will be like. He wonders as he is ordering a complete Thanksgiving dinner that is organic and elite and is it edible?

I consider this book to be one of the best of the year. Like Cormac McCarthy's book, 'The Road' the other great book of this year. 'Lay of the Land' looks back to look at what has happened while "The Road" looks to the future so we can contemplate where we are.

"Yet while the melancholy settles in deeper this time, Bascombe remains what he always has been: a funny, kind and gentle man, a possessor, as one critic observed, of the "mysteriousness of the agreeable, nice person, harder to describe than the rake, miser or snob". Which is to say, he is not merely pleasant. Ford has kept Emerson in mind throughout: "Your goodness must have some edge to it -- else it is none." Bascombe is willing to speak difficult truths and does so; but he doesn't enjoy it and says so. "
BRIAN McCLUSKEY, The Scotsman

Highly, Highly Recommended. prisrob 11-13-06
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prisrob "pris,"
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Location: New England USA

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