Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Bear

Title:  The Bear
Author:  Andrew Krivak
Publication Information:  Bellevue Literary Press. 2020. 224 pages.
ISBN:  1942658702 / 978-1942658702

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The last two were a girl and her father who lived along the old eastern range on the side of a mountain they called the mountain that stands alone."

Favorite Quote:  "Her father told her once that all animals were creatures of habit and so, too, were they. The difference was she could choose to change her habits. Animals changed when they were afraid. Change before feat has had a chance to overcome you, he said, or after you have overcome it and like a storm it has moved on."

The Bear is a post-apocalyptic book that seems more like a book about life beginning at the beginning of time.

How do we know it is post-apocalyptic? There are remnants of a different world - books, ruins of a town, a pane of glass, and a set of flint and steel. There are memories and stories of a different time.

Two humans remains. A man, the father. A girl, the daughter. There was once a mother, but she is now buried at the top of the mountain. There is love. There is a home. There is plentiful food. There is a life in harmony with nature and with its creatures. Despite the post-apocalyptic setup, the scene is idyllic with seasons, forests, rivers, and all kinds of creatures.

According to the book description, the scene is actually inspired by Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. The actual mountain stands about 1,000 feet higher than any other mountains within the surrounding 30 miles. The name "monadnock" is from the First Nation language Abenaki and loosely translates to "mountain that stands alone." This is the "name" given to the mountain in the book although the book has more labels than actual names.

The fact that the book has no names give it an almost philosophical tone. The stated theme running throughout the book is that of the cycle of life and the love and loss that it brings:
  • "But we don't get to choose when we leave here to sleep on the mountain. We all have to sleep on the mountain one day. Even the bear. Even when we struggle with all our will not to."
  • "That every thing has its end. And we have a part to play, right up to that end."
  • "But I miss whom I once could touch, as all must do when we make our way through whatever forest or wood it is in which we travel or are raised. This does not mean the man is lost or has disappeared forever. For although he no longer walks beside you, he still remains in the time and place of memory and this is where he will appear again and again, as often as you will seek him. Not only in those places where he has hallways been but where he could not be then yet will be now."
The unstated underlying theme of the book is living in harmony with nature. It is a bear and the other forest creatures that protect the girl and that teach her the lessons life brings. Honoring the forest and the creatures that house her, clothe her, and feed her is a tradition repeated over and over again throughout the book. A world in which only two humans exist comes across not as sad and desolate but lush and protective and abundant with life.

That image is evoked by the wonderfully visual, almost poetic writing that leave me hopeful for this world and this girl and for our world.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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