Barrett Hathcock at The Quarterly Conversation:
But now Richard Ford has written a memoir. To be sure, it is strange, almost an anti-memoir. The book consists of two halves, a recently written remembrance of his father and a remembrance of his mother, written shortly after her death in the early 1980s. The conceit of the book is that his parents are essentially unknowable and that they had a rich and fulfilling life before he arrived on the scene—that he came “between them.” His view is of the only child who sees the margin where his life ends and theirs continues on without him. The result is a memoir that is empathetic to his parents’ sovereignty as adults.
The best part of the book is about his parents’ life before he came along. His father, Parker Ford, was a salesman for the Faultless Starch Company who travelled around the south visiting grocery stores, demonstrating and hawking his product. For many of those early years his wife Edna simply travelled with him. They kept an apartment in Arkansas that was mostly a provisional landing pad and otherwise lived on the road out of hotels and diners, and the picture Ford paints is a pre-interstate-highway-system, responsibility-free bliss. “He and she—barely out of their twenties and exceedingly happy—handed out little boxed starch samples and cotton hot pads to the country girls, who were flattered to receive such gifts at a time when nobody had anything.”