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Summary and book reviews of The Bear by Andrew Krivak

The Bear

by Andrew Krivak

The Bear by Andrew Krivak X
The Bear by Andrew Krivak
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

In an Edenic future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain.

They possess a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches the girl how to fish and hunt, the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind. But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can only learn to listen.

A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, The Bear is a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature's dominion.

Excerpt
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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. From the very first sentence, we're aware that this will be a novel that grapples with human extinction. How do the man and his daughter, described as "the last two," view their place in the world? What do you think the author is trying to say about our legacy?
  2. How does the novel portray the father/daughter relationship? Is the role of the man one of teacher or is he simply a father passing along what any parent would pass along to a child? Is he aware of what is at stake? Would anything be different if the main characters were a mother and son?
  3. Early in the novel, the girl watches a bear emerge from the woods and walk toward the lake. She asks her father, "Was my mother a bear?" Why does she pose this question? At another point, the...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is a novel that can change perceptions of the Earth and our place in it. Andrew Krivak's rich, clearly-experienced descriptions of nature make you vividly feel pieces of ice in a river, for example, or the space of a cave. It becomes so obvious that we do not dominate the natural world. We have never dominated it. We are merely guest stars on this planet who have been granted an incredibly generous arc. The novel may inspire a recoupling with nature, or a new connection if you haven't had much of one before...continued

Full Review (605 words).

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(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

Slate
Beautiful. . . . So loving and vivid that you can feel the lake water and smell the sea. . . . A perfect fable for the age of solastalgia.

Forward Reviews
A lovely, unforgettable experience.

Washington Post
Any shadow of preciousness is quickly dispelled by the clarity of Krivak’s prose and the precision with which he delineates the girl’s struggles during a bitter winter when she is once again alone...Krivak’s serene and contemplative novel invites us to consider a vision of time as circular, of existence as grand and eternal beyond the grasp of individuals — and of a world able to outlive human destructiveness.

The Observer (UK)
Arresting, exquisite . . . The Bear is more than a parable for our times, it’s a call to listen to the world around us before it’s too late.

Booklist
[Krivak's] sentences are polished stones of wonder...The elegiac tone reflects what is lost and what will be lost, an enchantment as if Wendell Berry had reimagined Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A literary rejoinder of sorts to Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, Krivak's slender story assures us that even without humans, the world will endure...Ursula K. Le Guin would approve. An effective, memorable tale.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
With artistry and grace, National Book Award–finalist Krivak (The Sojourn) offers a story of endurance and a return to life with nature in a postapocalyptic world, where an unnamed father and daughter are the only remaining humans on earth...This beautiful and elegant novel is a gem.

Library Journal (starred review)
Poignant but not tragic, this end-of-civilization story shows that there's no loneliness in this world when we are one with nature.

Foreword Reviews
A lovely, unforgettable experience.

Author Blurb Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master's Son and Fortune Smiles
In spare and lovely prose, Andrew Krivak folds the deep past and the far future into a remarkable fable about our inheritance as humanity makes a harmonic return to the spirit and animal worlds. This book follows you, like a river under ice.

Author Blurb Salvatore Scibona, author of The End and The Volunteer
A tight yet expansive novel in prose so vivid you forget these are words and not the cedar, trout, and stones of a post-Anthropocene Earth.

Author Blurb Josh Weil, author of The New Valley and The Age of Perpetual Light
Crafted with as much care and mastery as the finest oaken bow, this is a book that manages to be both timeless and urgent, clear-eyed and tender-hearted, archetypal and unconventional: a bedtime tale told by a prophet. A wonder in itself.”

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock

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 Abnaki tribe's language.

In real life, the 3,165-foot mountain is the centerpiece of the Monadnock State Park. Mentions to it ...

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