The Last Speaker of Bear: My Encounters in the North

Trinity Univ. Oct. 2022. 228p. ISBN 9781595349859. pap. $18.95. TRAV
In this collection of short essays, nature writer, poet, and mycologist Millman (Goodbye, Ice: Arctic Poems; At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic) recounts various adventures experienced during his years of Arctic travel. From sampling psychotropic mushrooms in Siberia to attending a séance in Iceland, Millman’s curiosity about Indigenous traditions and Arctic history led him to sample foods, such as ptarmigan (small bird) droppings, risk the wrath of a mother grizzly, and tour the remnants of the world’s northernmost baseball field. Whether gathering lore from Inuit elders or describing the pristine beauty of a crater lake, the author relates his encounters with good humor and obvious affection. Though many of the essays are amusing, such as his run-in with “Viking” marauders on a remote Icelandic island, climate change and its deleterious effects on landscapes, wildlife, and livelihoods are a common theme of his observations, and his anticipatory mourning for an Arctic close to vanishing forever serves as a potent reminder of the present reality.
VERDICT Although the brevity of the essays may make readers wish Millman had opted to write the fuller memoir he mentions in the preface, those interested in the Arctic will likely appreciate what they’ve gotten.
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