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Likely Stories: Sorry for Your Trouble, by Richard Ford


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

Richard Ford has twenty plus novels to his credit, and nearly all are excellent reads. However, some stories in Sorry for Your Trouble are tiny bit weak.  These are samples of my favorites.


The first story I read, “Nothing to Declare,” was rather interesting.  Sandy was at a work party, and a woman repeatedly glanced his way.  He vaguely recalled seeing her before.  They left the party, and Ford picks up the thread: “They had traveled to Iceland together thirty-five years ago (though to be here now was shocking).  Both students in Ithaca.  They’d known each other slightly, which hadn’t mattered.  A Catholic-school boy from uptown.  Each day the natives caught a fish and cooked it for you.  However, there was money enough for Iceland.  Their trip wasn’t being advertised at home.  She was then called ‘Barbara.’  A name she disliked.  He was simply Sandy McGuinness.  Alex.  A lawyer’s son.  His mother was a school teacher.  Nothing about them was exotic” (3).

“Displaced” is also thought provoking.  Ford wrote, “When your father dies and you were only sixteen, many things change.  School life changes.  You are now the boy whose father is missing.  People feel sorry for you, but they also devalue you, even resent you—for what you are not sure.  The air around you is different.  Once that air contained you fully.  But now an opening’s cut, which feels frightening, yet not so frightening. // And there is your mother and her loss to fill—at least to step into—while you manage those very sensations.  Fear.  And others.  Opportunity.  And always there is the fact of your father, whom you love or loved, and whose life has quickly become only about its end—much of the rest quickly fading.  So.  You are alone in a way that is so many-sided there is not a word for it.  Attempts to find the word leave you confused—since that confusion is not all together unwanted or unliked” (45).  I have experienced these emotions, and Ford is spot on.

The last is “Crossing.”  Ford wrote, “They were three ladies.  Together, he gathered.  Taking the ferry over from Holyhead.  Americans—as he was.  Though the one might have been Canadian, the silvered-haired, short, laughing one who seemed to be having a better time.  Something …oot, aboot, the hoose … made him think that. They were all high-spirited.  Going across to some concert in Dublin.  Someplace on the docklands, he’d overheard.  Some others on the ferry were going as well.  From where, were these women? // At one moment they all three sang together—loudly.  ‘Once, twice, three times a lady,’ then laughed in a silly way.  […]  Most others in the wide, echoing lounge were more subdued.  Typical for the ferry, things on their minds, duties of the day, troubles out ahead.  The boat trip not a novelty for them” (76).

As far as this collection is concerned, Richard Ford’s Sorry for Your Trouble has plenty of substance, and perhaps, you might find some of your favorites for a rainy afternoon.  5 Stars.

Likely Stories is a production or KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!


Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.