showed the lay land

The Lay of the Land

The Lay of the Land is a 2006 novel by American author Richard Ford. The novel is the third in a trilogy, which began with The Sportswriter (1986) and was followed several years later by Independence Day (1995). Both of these novels, along with The Lay of the Land, follow a portion of the life of Frank Bascombe, a real estate agent entering his later years.

It was nominated for a 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award.


The Lay of the Land takes place in the fall of 2000, and Ford's character Frank Bascome is preparing for Thanksgiving at his home in Sea Clift, New Jersey. His son Paul, who is now a greeting card designer in Kansas City, Paul's girlfriend, who only has one hand, and Frank's daughter, Clarissa, who is an on-and-off lesbian, are all expected to attend. Frank has ordered a ready-made organic meal to be delivered on the holiday.

Frank's second wife, Sally, has reunited with her formerly AWOL and presumed-dead husband Wally, and they now live in the British Isles. Frank is in the last throes of a fight against prostate cancer, and Frank's first wife, Ann, has moved back to Haddam, New Jersey, after the death of her second husband.

Frank has started RealtyWise, his own company, and employs Mike Mahoney, a Tibetan who has adopted an American Republican lifestyle, except for his Zen philosophy.

Over the course of three days, Frank has a range of painful experiences with everyone he meets, including potential home buyers, the father of an old flame, his former wife, his son, and an old acquaintance whom Frank assaults in a bar. Frank's most redeeming moments as a character are in a lesbian bar where he waits for repair work on his Chevrolet Suburban, and when he gets shot in the chest by teenagers who have murdered his unlikable neighbors.

In the end, Frank and Sally are flying to the Mayo Clinic to get the final word on his prostate.


Merle Rubin of The Christian Science Monitor prasied the book, commenting "[the book] bristles with energy, with a natural assurance on the part of its writer." The Sydney Morning Herald reviewed the novel positively, noted that "the tone of The Lay of the Land is sombre, despite a few patches of high comedy, and its style is markedly introspective," adding that "Ford is such a fine writer that he pulls off a notable feat." In a positive review, Richard Ford of The Observer wrote "Often in the book, you feel like you could listen to Frank observing his life for ever; very occasionally, it feels like you are," adding "There's not a line in the nearly 500 pages that you would want to lose, though." The Wall Street Journal complimented the book, writing "Mr. Ford's prose, however, is far from dull; virtuosic flights and crescendos animate passages that we might otherwise think we could do without."


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