The Lay of the Land

by Richard Ford

Hardcover, 2006

Call number




Knopf (2006), 485 pages


Frank Bascombe's story resumes, in the fall of 2000, with the presidential election still hanging in the balance and Thanksgiving looming before him with all the perils of a post-nuclear family get-together. He's now plying his trade as a realtor on the Jersey shore and contending with health, marital and familial issues.

User reviews

LibraryThing member naphta0853
The Bascombe trilogy stands besides Updike's Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy as unique and perhaps definitive examinations of the concept of "maleness" in contemporary America during the last half century.
LibraryThing member piefuchs
How I do enjoying spending time with Frank Bascombe - he is funny, insightful, and he gives me a candid view into the world of the realtor. After spending the Independence Day weekend with him a decade or so ago, how could I refuse his invitation to come for Thanksgiving. Though a lot does happen
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to him on these weekends.

In a nutshell, that's why I love (and, for the plot twists, a bit dislike) about this series. Ford's commentary on American society, on family, on love, on the mundaneness of eventful life, is spot on. His writing is exceptional. Having read his earlier book, it felt like I was visiting an old friend and his nutty family.
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LibraryThing member ccayne
I have loved all of Richard Ford's books but I found this book terribly slow going and not worth the effort.
LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
The third and final book in a trilogy--not as good as the two other Frank Bascomb novels. Too wordy and lacking a narrative arc. Describes Frank as he deals with the loss (and reunion with) his second wife, prostrate cancer, the shooting of his neighbors and various other happenings surrounding
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Thanksgiving 2000. Good at capturing a particular psyche at a particular point in time and wonderfully cavalier use of language.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Anyone who followed Frank Bascombe through Richard Ford’s previous novels in this trilogy (The Sportswriter and Independence Day) will be forgiven for some trepidation on picking up the final instalment, which is situated during the Thanksgiving Day weekend of 2000. American holidays haven’t
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been good to Frank. They tend to induce introspection, disruption from the usual routine, and interactions with one’s family, all of which are somewhat risky activities. And for Frank, who is now settled in what he calls his ‘Permanent Period’, such moments of personal and national soul searching usual trigger transformation. A change is certain for the country, mired though it is in the aftermath of the disputed Bush-Gore presidential election. But what kind of change can come for someone in his Permanent Period? What’s next, other than the ‘Next Level’, and what can that be other than death itself?

Frank is estranged from his first wife. His second wife, Sally, has been gone for nearly a year, having followed her former husband (who had been presumed dead) to the Scottish island of Mull. He cannot survive even a brief conversation with his son, Paul, without nearly coming to blows. His daughter, Clarissa, is pursuing her own transformations. His Tibetan colleague in Realty-Wise is itching to climb another rung on the great ladder of being. And Frank is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Anxious might be too modest a word to describe Frank’s state of mind.

Once again, Richard Ford paints a masterly picture of the modern condition in this gripping conclusion to his Frank Bascombe trilogy. The prose is dense with hesitant metaphor and promiscuous symbolism as Frank asserts, contradicts, and reasserts himself, more acted upon than acting, and incapable, seemingly, of transacting the smallest bit of business without disaster—physical, emotional, spiritual—rearing up and biting him. It’s hard to imagine a character more in need of our sympathy, or less able or likely to accept it.

Of course, endings are very much the theme of The Lay of the Land. One way or another, it’s the end for Frank. Eschatology breeds an intemperate clamouring for teleology. But whether Frank can piece together his life as a whole is an open question. And the end, when it comes, is always a surprise, however much we prepare ourselves.

Recommended without reservation.
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LibraryThing member jldarden
Having read the first two installments in the Frank Bascomb series, I was prepared to like this one, and I did, at first. But as it went on it seemed to slog. I understand he has had some tragedy in his life but much of this book sounded like a pity party to me. An afterword with the author
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mentioned Frank's optimistic voice but I found him slightly annoying in this outing
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LibraryThing member nicktingle
The Lay of the Land is the third in Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy. The time, in this one, the few days up to and including Thanksgiving in the year 2000. The place, more or less the Jersey Shore, though overlapping with Haddam, Frank's location in Independence Day, the second in the
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trilogy. Frank is 55 and carrying around radiation pellets in his prostate. The narration and the mood of the whole is consequently pretty much death saturated. Frank is a real estate agent, but a thoughtful, even philosophic guy and feels things about his kids and his two marriages, and he's trying to figure out how to deal with life in light of this death thing. It's now, my time, 2013. So it's odd looking back, listening to Frank, and knowing that he hasn't lived through 9.11 yet. It's odd remembering the horrible Bush Gore election and the treason committed by the Supreme Court. So it's a timely book, rooted in its time, and making me think about time. I am Frank's age. I too was 55 in 2000. I wonder what I might have felt about the book had I read it when it was originally published. As it is, I liked the book. I found it good company. More stuff goes on in the three days we spend with Frank than goes on for most people in a decade. Still mama said they'd be days like this, mama said. If there is a moral or deep meaning, it has something do with the vast distances between people, even husbands and wives, fathers and sons, an isolation that might be all the deeper in those with complex subjectivity.
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LibraryThing member PCorrigan
Boring, overwritten, pretentious crap laced with a steady diet of pronouncements on the evils of being a Republican.
LibraryThing member otterley
Ford's third book about the ordinary white American man, Frank Bascombe, as ever offers a richly patterned and intricate meditation on the average and quotidian - and how extraordinary that is. The passage through life of a family man, navigating the new and unexpected, watching change and
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conscious of being one step behind or out of step, just holding things together or seeing them fall apart, takes us through a matter of days and miles in nearly 500 pages of intersections, hits and near misses.
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LibraryThing member cstebbins
Walker Percy without the faith. I read an interview with this character somewhere, in which he said something to the effect that we must look for comfort to art rather than religion. I take it that this means he is well aware of the ersatz religious nature of this his work. Still, at my age and
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given the theme of this elegiac non-story, it's hard not to give him a few points.
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LibraryThing member witchyrichy
I really wanted to like this book with its story of Frank Bascombe as he faces the Permanent Period of his life. I'm not sure it matters that this was the third book in a series: I learned enough about Frank's past to be able to follow the narrative. And I liked Frank...he really was coming at life
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with full force and taking a battering in the process. I found the ending a little strange and convenient to Frank's evolution. I was reminded of the King's comment to Mozart in the movie Amadeus: There were just too many notes. In this case, it seems like there were just too many words.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Like the first two Frank Bascombe novels, The Lay of the Land takes place over just three days. Several years have passed since Independence Day, and Frank is now 55, married for the second time, with two adult children from his first marriage. He’s still in real estate but left his home town of
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Haddam for Sea Clift, a small town on the New Jersey shore. It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and Frank has a few things to take care of before welcoming his children and their significant others for the holiday. As Frank goes about his business, his internal monologue completes his recent life history including a recent prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. He ruminates about being 55, what else might be in store for him, and what constitutes a good life.

In real time Frank does some smart and caring things, and some stupid things. Like most people, Frank’s life has been a mix of good and bad. He’s been touched by tragedy, but also known love. He’s a proud if sometimes frustrated father. Several plot threads spin out over the three days both with his business and his family, culminating in a dramatic sequence that I didn’t see coming and, truth to tell, was a bit over the top.

I’ve enjoyed the style and structure of these novels as well as Frank’s character, but The Lay of the Land was the weakest of the trilogy. It’s long (over 500 pages), and is rambling in spots. Richard Ford has since published a fourth Bascombe novel but I think I’ll stop for now while my opinion of Frank Bascombe is still positive.
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LibraryThing member breic
Not as good as the first two, I still really enjoyed this third Frank Bascombe book. It starts slowly, but soon takes off. The narrator has a ton of personality and humor, and is always interjecting Deep Thoughts on life, aging, community, and New Jersey real estate.




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