be mine richard ford frank bascombe novel

Spotlight on “Be Mine” by Richard Ford

by LitStack Editor

Be Mine—From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford: the final novel in the world of Frank Bascombe, one of the most indelible characters in American literature.

be mine richard ford frank bascombe novel

About Be Mine

Over the course of four celebrated works of fiction and almost forty years, Richard Ford has crafted an ambitious, incisive, and singular view of American life as lived. Unconstrained, astute, provocative, often laugh-out-loud funny, Frank Bascombe is once more our guide to the great American midway in Be Mine.

Publisher: Vintage
Publish Date: July 24, 2007

Now in the twilight of life, a man who has occupied many colorful lives—sportswriter, father, husband, ex-husband, friend, real estate agent—Bascombe finds himself in the most sorrowing role of all: caregiver to his son, Paul, diagnosed with ALS. On a shared winter odyssey to Mount Rushmore, Frank, in typical Bascombe fashion, faces down the mortality that is assured each of us, and in doing so confronts what happiness might signify at the end of days.

In this memorable novel, Richard Ford puts on displays the prose, wit, and intelligence that make him one of our most acclaimed living writers. Be Mine is a profound, funny, poignant love letter to our beleaguered world.

Reviews of Be Mine

Be Mine finds Frank Bascombe, star of The Sportswriter, still searching for the meaning of life in his appealing latest. Frank, 74 and twice divorced, stays buoyant despite some mortal despair by indulging in clichés such as falling for a younger massage therapist. His son, Paul, has ALS, and he proposes they road-trip together to Mount Rushmore. In a rented RV, Frank and Paul set out from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Paul has just finished participating in a clinical study. On the way through South Dakota, they stop at the famed Corn Palace, spend a night at a rundown motel, and visit a dire casino called the Fawning Buffalo. “What causes places to be awful is always of interest,” Frank notes in Rapid City. Father and son banter with mock cruelty, but Frank’s outlook is sincere: “Not every story ends happy. Out in the gloom you can find some lights on.”

These pages are steeped in melancholy, and for the most part Ford’s prose stays within the speed limit, neither soaring nor stalling, though he stops the reader cold with the occasional startling insight: Paul, divulging the details of his dementia, remarks on Frank’s indomitable mind: “You connect everything.” Ford’s fans will find much to love.—Publishers Weekly

Frank Bascombe receives the send-off he deserves in Be Mine, the fifth book of the series following Let Me Be Frank With You (2014). Death is very much on the mind of the 74-year-old narrator of this curtain call of a novel. But not primarily his own. His one surviving son, Paul, has contracted ALS (or “Al’s,” as they personify it), and Frank is shepherding him through what both know will be his final days—first at the Mayo Clinic in wintry, frigid Rochester, Minnesota, and then on a pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore. It’s a trip that both men find senseless and absurd, but you have to fill a life somehow, even if it’s about to end. Paul has neither forgotten nor forgiven his parents’ split, their marriage doomed after the death of his brother.

Now Paul’s mother (Frank’s first ex-wife) is dead as well. Frank seems adrift, but then he always has. He’s a reflective man but not a particularly deep thinker, more reactive to the vagaries of life than purposeful at determining any particular goal, direction, or meaning. But death—his first wife’s, his son’s, and eventually his own—gives him a lot to ponder about the meaning of it all, if there is any, and causes him to reflect on the life he has lived through the previous novels. 

One needn’t have read those to appreciate this, but it could well inspire readers to revisit the entire fictional cycle, launched to great acclaim with The Sportswriter (1986). As its title alludes, the new novel focuses on Valentine’s Day, as much as Independence Day (1995) did on that holiday: It’s a novel about the ambiguities of love and happiness. Frank remains a funny guy, both ha-ha funny and a little odd, but Ford couldn’t be more serious about his craft, his precision, his attention to detail, his need to say exactly what he means. If this is also Ford’s curtain call, he has done himself proud.—Kirkus Reviews

“Ford masterfully captures the strained dynamic of two men attempting to articulate emotions…Ford’s prose attains a rare combination of exquisite beauty powered by dialogue that has the casual familiarity of a jocular Everyman gifted with a winning, sly wit. Be Mine ultimately charts the journey of the human condition and the strivings, failings, and resiliency of the human heart. A fitting finale to the landmark Bascombe saga, this ranks among Ford’s best.”Booklist

About Richard Ford

be mine richard ford frank bascombe novel

Richard Ford is the author of The Sportswriter; Independence Day, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award; The Lay of the Land; and the New York Times bestseller Canada. His short story collections include the bestseller Let Me Be Frank With You, Sorry for Your Trouble, Rock Springs and A Multitude of Sins, which contain many widely anthologized stories. Be Mine is the fifth Frank Bascombe novel. Richard Ford lives in New Orleans with his wife Kristina Ford.

The Frank Bascombe Books and Others

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