Between Them: Remembering My Parents

In this brief remembrance of his parents, before and after his arrival late in their marriage, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford (Independence Day, Canada) offers a slice of America in the last century, showing a hard-working middle-class couple whose dreams he speculates upon, but whose love he never doubted.

Because he sees his parents as individuals rather than a "parental unit," he shapes the book into two sections: the first about his father, Parker, born in 1904, then about his mother, Edna, born in 1910, both in Arkansas, although Edna grew up more rural circumstances. They wed in 1928 and lived on the road, driving among five states as Parker called on accounts he served as a salesman for the Faultless Starch Company. When Richard arrived in 1943, they settled in Jackson, Miss. Parker continued to travel, and the family reunited each weekend.

Some of Ford's memories are richly detailed--descriptions of 1950s cars Parker test drove, the new housing developments they visited--while others remain vague: "Maybe I was nine or seven or five." But Ford clearly recalls his father's fatal heart attack when he was 13. Of his mother, Ford writes, "Nothing for her would be quite good again."

Other authors, including Richard Russo and Ruth Reichl, have written memoirs of their ordinary parents, and Ford's homage is similarly respectful and appreciative. "They loved each other. They loved me. Nothing else much mattered." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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