Remembering My Parents
From American master Richard Ford, a memoir: his first work of nonfiction, a stirring narrative of memory and parental love.
How is it that we come to consider our parents as people with rich and intense lives that include but also exclude us? Richard Ford’s parents — Edna, a feisty, pretty Catholic-school girl with a difficult past; and Parker, a sweet-natured, soft-spoken traveling salesman — were rural Arkansans born at the turn of the twentieth century. Married in 1928, they lived “alone together” on the road, traveling throughout the South. Eventually they had one child, born late, in 1944.
For Ford, the questions of what his parents dreamed of, how they loved each other and loved him become a striking portrait of American life in the mid-century. Between Them is his vivid image of where his life began and where his parents’ lives found their greatest satisfaction.
Bringing his celebrated candor, wit, and intelligence to this most intimate and mysterious of landscapes — our parents’ lives — the award-winning storyteller and creator of the iconic Frank Bascombe delivers an unforgettable exploration of memory, intimacy, and love.
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Ford vividly and gracefully preserves his memories of parents, his life “between them,” and the small Southern towns that provided the limits and the possibilities of their lives.....Every page of this little remembrance teems with Ford’s luxuriant prose, his moving and tender longing for his parents, and his affecting and intimate portrait of two people simply living life as best they can as their world changes around them.
This is a memoir that seems to have been written more for Ford than for his readers, and it reveals as much about the writer as it does about his parents. Neither of these observations implies fault, only that the renowned novelist recognizes how the selection of detail and the limitations of memory inform a narrative and how the writer’s craft inevitably makes the results as much about the writer (and his craft) as his subject ... A subtle, careful testament to devotion and a son’s love for his parents.
Clearly Ford has always been inquisitive and observant. Otherwise how could this renowned fiction writer, winner of a Carnegie and a Pulitzer, summon up such arrestingly precise details in his first work of nonfiction, an exquisitely sensitive double portrait of his parents and memoir about being a “late child and an only child”? Illustrated with family photographs, Ford’s remembrance of his parents is a masterful distillation of sensuous description, psychological intricacy, social insights, and a keen sense of place. Ford’s reflections are bright with wit, edgy with candour, and lustrous with extraordinary poignancy and love.
What's most extraordinary about [Between Them] is how Ford transmutes the utterly ordinary lives into art. His parents would be proud of the honour he's paid in this work to their humble, decent lives.
An honest recording of two “wonderful’’ if ordinary parents. In the end, Ford notes how the act of writing a memoir, of having the last word, discloses his own shortcomings, then and now — as well as “how much that’s gone from me.’’ But he resists regret: “It is merely how life is,” the ultimate truth to which this affecting book is witness.
In this beautiful and tender memoir, Ford seems to see all of the important details. He makes his readers grateful that he shared them.
With a depth of perception that’s both affectionate and insightful, Ford tells the stories of his parents’ lives and deaths by turn, as they move from Arkansas to Mississippi, from near-poverty to the middle class, from 15 years of child-free marriage to the surprise of parenthood at an age that was then considered late in life, and from his father’s sudden, early death of a heart attack, to his mother’s widowhood and eventual death by cancer.
The New York Times