The Bear

Bellevue Literary. Feb. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9781942658702. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942658719. F
Most postapocalyptic novels bury us in blood or debris, but Krivak offers a completely different understanding of humans at the end of the line. Partly inspired by poet Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and following The Signal Flame, a Chautauqua Prize finalist, and The Sojourn, a National Book Award finalist, this engagingly different work chronicles a father alone in the world with his daughter as the last two people on Earth after civilization’s ruin. We’re not sure what happened to everyone else, even after the pair leave their mountain hideaway on a journey to a remnant of what was once human habitation. But no matter. As the narrative unfolds in graceful, luminous prose, the father teaches his young charge how to survive and tells her fantastical—or maybe not so fantastical—tales about bears. Throughout, the sense of wonder at nature’s beauty is palpable, and those bears? One guides the daughter when she is finally left on her own, and shares the secrets of how animals and humans once communicated, and has he got stories to tell.
VERDICT Poignant but not tragic, this end-of-civilization story shows that there’s no loneliness in this world when we are one with nature. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]
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