Book Club Reflection: The Bear by Andrew Krivak

22 Feb

My book club met recently to read a book I was not a fan of, The Bear by Andrew Krivak. Krivak was a National Book Award finalist for another book, The Sojourn, and is working on another book. One of our readers did a book club for his other book and Krivak joined the discussion! She said he was very nice and spoke about his time as a Jesuit. He’s published a memoir about his eight years in the Jesuit order called The Long Retreat. We could see some contemplative reflections in this book that many felt were in line with a monk’s life. Krivak has said he made up a story for his children about a talking bear and that inspired the bear in this novel. He also said he was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which another reader had guessed before our leader volunteered this information.

Our group had divided opinions on this book. Some loved it, a few (like me) hated it, and many were in the middle. Those of us who didn’t know it was going to be a fable were more on the ‘dislike’ side. A few readers had found the audiobook version and opinions there were split between love and hate as well.

The setting was never made very clear. Some felt it was Colorado while others thought Appalachia was more likely. Readers not knowing a lot about what was happening was reflective of the characters not knowing a lot, either. They had such minimal contact with other humans that there was a lot unspoken and unknown in their world. This book was described as a ‘quiet survivalist’ story. It was harrowing because of the girl’s personal struggle, but there wasn’t a community or society that was falling apart.

We thought the book would have been different if the child had been a boy and not a girl. We couldn’t exactly articulate what, but the ways the girl seemed to want to understand her late mother seemed to call on gender lines and wanting to be more like another woman. However, it the world started with Adam, maybe it was fitting that it should end with Eve. We found it odd that the father was so careful in everything he did and all the preparations that he made. Yet he was so reckless when exploring the old house. It was the only time he was impulsive and it spelled his ending. The bear was like her father once he showed up. In one of the girl’s dreams, she thinks she sees her dad but it ends up being the bear. We wondered if the bear was part of her grieving process for her dad’s death.

The book focused on re-establishing a connection with nature. Man is an animal, like all others in nature. However, many of us felt that paying attention to the trees and nature doesn’t have to mean talking to them, and this went a bit far. It was more about learning from nature and how to survive from the animals that do it already.

I was glad to meet up with this group, even if I didn’t like the book very much. It’s always great to talk to other book lovers. Until next time, write on.

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