The Bear
March 14, 2020 6:51 PM - by Andrew Krivak - Subscribe

From National Book Award in Fiction finalist Andrew Krivak comes a gorgeous fable of Earth’s last two human inhabitants, and a girl’s journey home ... 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.

The Bear Is a Mesmerizing Fable About the End of Humanity (Slate): The Bear is a coming-of-age fable about the last person on Earth. That isn’t a spoiler—the unnamed girl’s status as humanity’s final survivor is never in doubt in Andrew Krivak’s painful, beautiful new book, which begins: “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.” Most post-apocalyptic fiction offers hope in some form, whether it’s the caravanning Shakespeare companies of Station Eleven or the new family the son finds in The Road. Not so in The Bear. By halfway through the book, the girl is alone, and alone she’ll stay—save for the animals of the forest.
posted by jazon (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I finally made time for myself to read this in the (apparent) dawn of our post-pandemic world, inspired by this post and the Slate review: thanks for bringing the book to my attention, jazon.

The work is a fairly gentle post-apocalyptic fable, closer to a novella. It's very clear that the vast majority of humans died a very long time ago, to the point that civilization itself has become myth to the survivors. Loss, when it is depicted, is personal, rather than existential.

The work is very short: just 200 well-margined pages, closer to a novella than a novel. I found Krivak's writing style to have a similar direct approach as Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison, and Hemingway, while being separated from them with a kind of magic realism. It's a beautiful piece of work, one that I'll be thinking over for some time.

The only oddity, to me, is that the text never once mentioned menstruation, which I thought was an odd absence for the girl, who is around fifteen through the majority of the book.

I couldn't help but try to find possible locations for the mountain mentioned in the book. It's fairly clear that everything takes place in the northeastern United States: I settled on Mount Washington / Agiocochook, which has a large feature that looks a little like a bear's head.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 5:58 PM on May 27, 2022

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