The Lay of the Land : Frank Bascombe

  • by Richard Ford
  • Narrated by Joe Barrett
  • Series: Frank Bascombe
  • 24 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

With The Sportswriter, in 1986, Richard Ford commenced a cycle of novels that, 10 years later, after Independence Day won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, was hailed by The Times of London as "an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the story of the 20th century itself." Now, a decade later, Frank Bascombe returns, with a new lease on life (and real estate), and more acutely in thrall to life's endless complexities than ever before.His story resumes in the autumn of 2000, when his trade as a realtor on the Jersey Shore is thriving, permitting him to revel in the acceptance of "that long, stretching-out time when my dreams would have mystery like any ordinary person's; when whatever I do or say, who I marry, how my kids turn out, becomes what the world, if it makes note at all, knows of me, how I'm seen, understood, even how I think of myself before whatever there is that's wild and unassuagable rises and cheerlessly hauls me off to oblivion."
But as a presidential election hangs in the balance, and a postnuclear-family Thanksgiving looms before him, along with crises both marital and medical, Frank discovers that what he terms the Permanent Period is fraught with unforeseen perils: "All the ways that life feels like life at age 55 were strewn around me like poppies."
This is a holiday, and a novel, no reader will ever forget, at once hilarious, harrowing, surprising, and profound. The Lay of the Land is astonishing in its own right and a magnificent expansion of one of the most celebrated chronicles of our time.

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What the Critics Say



National Book Critics Circle 2006 Award Finalist, Fiction
"The third and most eventful novel in the Frank Bascombe series." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist, ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant, building a dense narrative from Frank's improvisations, epiphanies and revisions." (Publishers Weekly)
"As ever the drama is rooted in the interior world of its authentically life-sized hero, as he logs long hours on the highways and back roads of New Jersey, taking expansive stock of middle-age defeats and registering the erosions of a brilliantly evoked landscape of suburbs, strip malls and ocean towns." (New York Times Book Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Richard Ford, get out of my mind!

Richard Ford has written one of those books that make you believe he has been reading your mind for years. If you are a middle-aged suburban man, Frank Bascome is as real as the guy you see in the mirror every morning. We have the tendency to think our personal experience is unique, but a good author that so perfectly recreates your experience can let you see how universal life's story's are. I find it liberating and humorous to realize my situation is not as unique as I thought, hearing another man struggle with the same questions puts my fears and doubts in perspective.
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- D. Vance "Normal man"

A Wonder of a Book

After an 11-year hiatus, the Pulitzer prize-winning author revisits his most enduring character, Frank Bascombe, a former sportswriter turned real estate agent. Bascombe, now 55 years old, newly divorced, battling prostate cancer, has reached the Permanent Period: "the time of life when very little you say comes in quotes, when few contrarian voices mutter doubts in your head, when the past seems more generic than specific, when life's a destination more than a journey and when who you feel yourself to be is pretty much how people will remember you once you've croaked. . . ." It's Thanksgiving week, and Frank Bascombe narrates with an armchair philosopher's appreciation for everything from the route he drives to work to the grandest themes in everyday life as he navigates the highways and byways of the Garden State. His two grown children (his "reformed" lesbian daughter and his emotionally removed son who pens greeting cards for Hallmark), his Tibetan business associate, Mike Mahony, and his ex-wife Sally, all come under his highly entertaining scrutiny. Although the book could be criticized for taking pages to describe the simplest interactions, with detail that can be overwhelming numbing, the very notion of this novel is that the drama is in the details of our non-dramatic lives. The audio format lends itself to such expository story-telling, and the narrator -- who sounds like I envision Frank Bascombe sounds -- enhances the tale.
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- Stephanie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-13-2006
  • Publisher: Random House Audio