Excerpt from The Bear by Andrew Krivak, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Bear

by Andrew Krivak

The Bear by Andrew Krivak X
The Bear by Andrew Krivak
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    Feb 2020, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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The Bear

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. The man had come there with a woman when they were young and built a house out of timber, stones pulled from the ground, and mortar they made with a mix of mud and sand. It was set halfway up the mountain's slope and looked out onto a lake ringed with birch trees and blueberry bushes that ripened in summer with great bunches of fruit the girl and her father would pick as the two floated along the shore in a canoe. From a small window in front of the house—the glass a gift the woman's parents had given to her after having received it themselves from the generation before, so precious a thing had it become as the skill for making it was lost and forgotten—the girl could see eagles catching fish in the shallows of an island that rose from the middle of the lake and hear the cries of loons in the morning while her breakfast cooked over a hearth fire.


In winter the snows began not long after the autumn equinox and still visited the mountain months after the spring. Storms lasted for days and weeks at a time, drifts climbing up against the house and burying paths as deep as some trees grew high. Often the man had to wade for firewood or trudge out to his toolshed at the edge of the forest with a rope tied around his waist.

But when the winds settled, the skies cleared, and the low sun shone again, the man would wrap the young girl warm and tight in a pack, walk out into the stillness of winter, and float on snowshoes made of ash limbs and rawhide down to the frozen lake, where the two would spend the day fishing for trout and perch through the ice.

Snow covered so much of the girl's world from mountaintop to lake that for almost half the year all she could see when she looked out that window was a landscape at rest beneath a blanket of white.


And yet no matter how long winter lasted, spring followed, its arrival soft and somehow surprising, like the notes of birdsong upon waking, or the tap of water slipping in a droplet from a branch to the ground. As the snow melted, black rocks, gray lichen, and brown leaf cover emerged from the once-uniform palette of the forest floor, and the thin silvery outlines of trees began to brighten with leaves of green against the groupings of hemlock and pine. Those were the days when the girl left the house in the morning with her father and studied a new world that pushed up from the dirt of the forest and emerged from the water at the edge of the lake, days in which she lay on the ground beneath a warm sun and wondered if world and time itself were like the hawk and eagle soaring above her in long arcs she knew were only part of their flight, for they must have begun and returned to someplace as of yet unseen by her, someplace as of yet unknown.


There was, though, one day among all four seasons of the year the girl loved best. The summer solstice. The longest day of the year. The day on which the man told her she had been born. And he made it a tradition to give his daughter a gift on the eve of the solstice. She didn't remember receiving the earliest ones, but she cherished them just the same. A carved wooden bird so lifelike, it looked as though it could fly. A purse made of deer hide and sinew that was her mother's and in which she kept colored stones found along the lake. A water cup shaped from a piece of solid oak and from which she drank. A painted turtle that walked slowly from the man's hands as he unfolded them and which she kept for the summer as a pet, then released down by the lake in the autumn.

On the eve of the year the girl turned five, her father gave her a bowl of fresh strawberries after their supper and said, I have a special gift for you tonight.

Excerpted from The Bear Copyright © 2020 by Andrew Krivak. Published by Bellevue Literary Press: www.blpress.org. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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