Monday, October 11, 2010

INDEPENDENCE DAY by Richard Ford (1995)

The middle novel of the Bascombe trilogy, INDEPENDENCE DAY, won Ford the coveted Pulitzer Prize. No longer a sportswriter, protagonist Frank Bascombe is divorced and selling real estate in Haddam, New Jersey, in the midst of what he refers to as the Existence Period of his life.

His ex-wife Ann lives in Connecticut with their two children Claire and Paul and her wealthy paramour Charley O'Dell. This holiday weekend Frank has plans to take the Ur-father/son excursion with Paul to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame, stopping en route at the Basketball Hall of Fame to warm up. Paul has recently clocked his stepfather and has begun barking for attention, so Frank is hopeful that his opportunity to bond alone with Paul might be just what the doctor ordered, if not his ex-wife.

Humming along in the subplot is Frank's nascent 10 month-old relationship with his lady friend, "blond, tall and leggy Sally Caldwell" , and the very separate demands of hard-to-please real estate clients looking to get a new start in Frank's neck of the woods.

Frank's Independence Day weekend goes awry in a batting box at the Baseball Hall of Fame and he finds himself negotiating with his ex-wife for emergency medical care for their son and unexpectedly reunited with his stepbrother who helps to get him through this unexpected turn of events. Yet, by the time Frank faces the 4th of July head on, this most private of private men finds himself drawn to the parade crowd: "The trumpets go again. My heartbeat quickens. I feel the push, pull, the weave and sway of others."

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