Be Mine by Richard Ford: A review

Here's Frank Bascombe come to take us on a road trip once again. Since his creator, Richard Ford, first introduced him to us almost forty years ago, Frank has taken us on several holiday trips, most notably in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day.

Once again, Frank is taking a road trip with his son Paul who is now 47 and suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease). Frank and Paul refer to it as Al's, like some neighborhood bar. Frank is in his 70s and dealing with all the problems that come with an aging body, while also trying to serve as caretaker to his son.

So, how exactly is Frank accomplishing that? Well, his latest idea is to hit the road with Paul and take him to Mount Rushmore on a Valentine's Day trip. Paul has been in an experimental protocol for treating ALS at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Frank collects him and they head west. 

The topics of conversation between the two men while traveling range from observations about the midwestern landscape they are traversing to matters of life and death itself. Frank's health has been problematic as well. He's recovered from prostate cancer and now he just wants to be happy "before the gray curtain comes down." 

There's a certain desperation to Frank's personality that has been less noticeable (at least to me) in the previous four books in this series. As his body grows older, weaker, and more uncomfortable to live in, he senses that time is running out for him as well as for his son. It's an awareness that many of us, especially those of us of a certain age, can easily relate to. I think Richard Ford, who was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1944, may perceive that awareness quite personally, too, and perhaps that is why he is able to write about it so feelingly.

Previous reviews in this series:


  1. Three stars only - I will not be rushing to the library, then.

    1. Other reviewers - most, I think - have rated it higher and I had a serious debate with myself about what rating to give it, either three or four stars. In the end, I settled on the lower rating but that's just my personal reaction. You might love it. I would certainly never want to discourage anyone from reading it.

  2. I'm kind of intrigued by this one...both because of the road trip angle and because of what's going on with Frank and Paul. I might have to give this one a try.

  3. I am a bit on the fence about the book. But it is Richard Ford. Its themes seem touching but maybe it's not totally great. I will keep it on the back burner for now. You have read a lot of his ... all of the series!

    1. I think I probably feel a connection to Ford because we both grew up in Mississippi and had somewhat similar experiences growing up. Also, he's a very good writer!


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