What We’re Reading – Independence Day

independence day trade paperback

Title: Independence Day

Author: Richard Ford

Genre: literary fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

This is the second book in a series and I enjoyed the first book, The Sportswriter.There are two more books in the series: The Lay of the Land and Let Me Be Frank with You, which were published in 2006 and 2014, respectively.

What did you like about it?

It is very well-written. The first-person narrative invites the reader to get inside the main character’s head. In 1988 Frank Bascombe is a former sportswriter and current New Jersey real estate agent who is living in his so-called “Existence Period,” a period of his life in which he is drifting, on auto-pilot and not taking on any extra commitments or trying to change his life. His ex-wife lives with their two children and her wealthy husband in Connecticut. Frank is planning an Independence Day weekend with his 15-year old son Paul, who has emotional, legal and behavior issues, to visit the Basketball and Baseball Halls of Fame. He hopes to forge some paternal connection with his son and provide guidance for the troubled boy. Everything does not go as planned.

Having read The Sportswriter, I enjoyed catching up with Frank about five years after the setting of the first book and seeing the similarities to his character in the first book, while appreciating how he had matured in the years between the books.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

It was of course similar to The Sportswriter. The series (so far) reminds me of John Updike’s Rabbit series, which also follows a man through various stages of his life.

Was there anything noteworthy about the book?

In 1996 Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

What feeling did the book leave you with?

The book is over 400 pages long and covers a long weekend, so it’s a slow read. There are a lot of details: descriptions of what Frank’s seeing and Frank’s internal dialogue. A 90-second episode can span several pages. This is a book to savor rather than being a page-turner. Finishing the book left me feeling as though I’d accomplished something. I look forward to reading the next book, The Lay of the Land, but not right away.

Who would you recommend the book to?

I recommend this book to parents—especially fathers—of teenage boys and fans of U.S. literary fiction.

What would you pair this book with?

I’d pair this book with a summer road trip with family to historic sites, national monuments or museums.

Durham Tech’s libraries have three copies of this book, so check it out!

About Stephen Brooks

Stephen is a reference librarian at Durham Tech. He has blogged previously at acqweb.org and for American Libraries magazine online. He enjoys reading 20th and 21st century literature, biographies and books about sports.