Be Mine: A Frank Bascombe Novel

Ecco: HarperCollins. Jun. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780061692086. $30. F
Pulitzer Prize winner Ford’s final Frank Bascombe novel finds Frank now 74, twice divorced and caring for his adult son Paul, diagnosed with ALS, all of which has led Frank to reevaluate his own life. Much of the novel takes place in Minnesota, where Paul is enrolled in an experimental drug study at the Mayo Clinic while Frank finds solace with a young Asian masseuse. With the study ending, Frank proposes they take a trip to Mount Rushmore, mostly as a coping strategy for both father and son and perhaps as a way for them to find a measure of peace with their situation. Leaving just before Valentine’s Day, they begin an odyssey across an absurdist U.S. heartland in a rented camper too dilapidated to sleep in, arriving on a freezing Valentine’s Day, where they find the expected and the quite unexpected. This is a sometimes grim and often broodingly comic meditation on aging, death, the state of the nation, and the nature of happiness in old age.
VERDICT While not the best of the four Bascombe novels (e.g., Let Me Be Frank with You), it is still a worthy conclusion to a series that ranks with Updike’s “Rabbit” novels for its incisive take on American life across several decades.
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