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New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock: Background information when reading The Bear

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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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About this Book

New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock

This article relates to The Bear

Print Review

A scenic view overlooking trees with colorful leaves and Mount MonadnockLooking at a photograph of Mount Monadnock, it might not appear all that imposing. But if you've seen it in person, you were probably impressed by its size. To capture a place on the page, one has to know it intimately, and it's obvious from Andrew Krivak's deep, poetic descriptions of this mountain and its surrounding environment in The Bear that he has that personal knowledge. He lives in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and explains on his website that Mount Monadnock served as inspiration for the novel. Throughout, it's referred to as "the mountain that stands alone," which is a translation of its name from the Native Abenaki tribe's language.

In real life, the 3,165-foot mountain is the centerpiece of the Monadnock State Park. Mentions to it appear in the work of both Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service in 1987. In Krivak's post-apocalyptic world, a girl and her father live "along the old eastern range on the side of a mountain," in a house located "halfway up the mountain's slope," looking out "onto a lake ringed with birch trees and blueberry bushes…" This may be a reference to the "Halfway House," a hotel that once sat halfway up the mountain but burned down in 1954.

Mount Monadnock is enormously popular with hikers; New Hampshire magazine calls it the third most climbed mountain in the world. The surrounding park features groves of hardwood and spruce trees and the basins of the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. Large slabs of rock guide your way to the top of the summit, which is bare. There are numerous trails up and around the mountain with varying difficulty levels. For example, the White Dot Trail is very steep, offering the most direct route to the top, while the Dublin Trail and the Birchtoft/Red Spot Trails are much more gradual ascents. Krivak's Monadnock-inspired mountain is described vividly: "the summit, no more than twenty long strides away, its jagged rock bereft of trees and exposed to countless days and nights of sun, snow, wind and rain. Behind it was only sky, so that in profile the shape of that summit looked to her, too, like the head of a bear staring into the blue."

Being unfamiliar with this part of New Hampshire, I read about "the mountain that stands alone" in The Bear and marveled at Krivak's skillful depiction, his heartfelt craft, his clear love of the mountain. If you have seen Mount Monadnock yourself, you might be impressed with the author's ability to put into words the majesty you've observed. One of the remarkable things about writing, about storytelling, is the way they can bring us together through a shared perception or experience, or cause us to see something we're familiar with in an entirely new way.

Mount Monadnock, courtesy of Monadnock Conservancy

Filed under Nature and the Environment

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This article relates to The Bear. It first ran in the March 18, 2020 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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