Jess's Reviews > Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories

Bear Down, Bear North by Melinda Moustakis
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's review
Apr 20, 12

bookshelves: shortstories, writing, favorites
Read in March, 2012

Strengths:

I’ve always had a soft spot for really good short stories; they’re like perfect espresso: potent, deeply satisfying, an experience you want to draw out, to linger over, to appreciate. There’s so much humanity and emotion packed into a tight form, you’re left with a feeling of potential, like you’ve been offered a glimpse of something, but there are layers on layers that remain unwritten. Moustakis’s stories touch on this soft spot. The book brings you into the lives of a series of linked characters in the Alaskan wilderness. Her writing mirrors her characters and the landscape: sparing to the point of being harsh at times. But it also has lyrical moments, especially when describing the internal emotional life of her characters. These women are complex: sad, strong, nurturing, rugged. There’s a deep vulnerability to all of them; even amidst cursing and knives and alcohol and tragedy, they love and are loved and are therefore human. The prose style is full of forward movement, verbs catapult you forward into the icy Alaskan wilderness. It is unpretentious, neither shying away, nor gratuitous with the vernacular of her subjects.

Weaknesses:

It would be difficult for me to pinpoint serious weaknesses in this work. The only criticism might be that the male characters seemed underdeveloped in comparison with the women, but I’m not sure that wasn’t intentional. The men almost fade into the landscape and their wives, sisters, mothers, companions, lovers adapt and react around them.

Overall Literary Merit:

This was a beautiful book that I found difficult to put down. The emotion and connection I felt to it is just as strong flipping through the book again nearly a month after my first read-through – one of my favorites in the past year.
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