Cynthia's Reviews > The Summer of the Bear

The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
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Jun 01, 11

bookshelves: books-read-in-2011
Read in May, 2011

Understated Magical Thinking


This is a whimsical coming of age story of three siblings growing up on a far northern Scottish Island. They’ve just lost their diplomatist father in a horrible accident (or was it suicide?) and their mother has emotionally checked out of their lives. The two oldest Georgie, 17 and Alba, 14 are negotiating puberty with more or less success but the girls’ 9 year old brother Jamie is floundering but then he’s always been on the odd. He can’t accept that his much loved dad is gone forever and becomes convinced that he has returned in the guise of a grizzly bear that’s been lost on their island having slipped away from his wrestling bear owner. This honors the beliefs of the local fishermen who legend has it can return to life as seagulls. Mom’s drinking becomes worse as she sits up nights rereading her husband’s apparent suicide note and rehashing their life together searching for truth and some meaning. The kids are left alone to raise themselves and one another. There is a non-cloying sweetness to this book. It’s filled with nostalgia (it’s set in the 1970’s), the Hebrides island a remote but beautiful place and there’s the magical thinking of childhood that never quite tips over into the fantastical. Finally there’s optimism and love that leads to honesty and a remerging and renewing within this family. Another juicy tidbit are the snippets of the father’s diplomatic work concerning the cold war as it played out in Germany in the decades post World War II.
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