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.
Andrew Krivak is the author of two previous novels: The Signal Flame, a Chautauqua Prize finalist, and The Sojourn, a National Book Award finalist and winner of both the Chautauqua Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He lives with his wife and three children in Somerville, Massachusetts, and Jaffrey, New Hampshire, in the shadow of Mount Monadnock, which inspired much of the landscape in The Bear.
Praise For The Bear…
Praise for The Bear
hoopla Book Club Spotlight Selection
BuzzFeed Most Anticipated Books of the Year selection
BookBrowse Editors Choice selection
Library Journal Editors Picks selection
Iowa Public Radio Best Books to Read This Summer selection
Buzz Books by Publishers Lunch selection
Lyrical. . . . Gorgeous. . . . Krivaks serene and contemplative novel invites us to consider a vision of time as circular, of existence as grand and eternal beyond the grasp of individualsand of a world able to outlive human destructiveness. Washington Post
Arresting, exquisite. . . . The Bear is more than a parable for our times, its a call to listen to the world around us before its too late. Observer
Beautiful. . . . So loving and vivid that you can feel the lake water and smell the sea. . . . A perfect fable for the age of solastalgia. Slate
[A] tender apocalyptic fable . . . endowed with such fullness of meaning that you have to assign this short, touching book its own category: the post-apocalypse utopia. Wall Street Journal
A powerful allegory about the struggles and graces of life. America Magazine
A beautiful, gripping, thought-provoking exploration of human rewilding and natures dominion. Winnipeg Free Press
A lyrical fable for fans of soft apocalypse. . . . Youll find yourself wanting to read sentences aloud for the full affect. The Sound
Defies categorizing. . . . Immense in its truths. Harvard Press
Theres a transcendence in Krivaks prose. Addison Independent
Stellar. . . . The powerful impact of this slim, exquisite novel reveal[s] the wisdom of the natural world. WOSU All Things Considered
[A] thoughtful, meditative exploration of humanitys place in the world. WBUR The ARTery
With artistry and grace . . . Krivak delivers a transcendent journey into a world where all living thingshumans, animals, treescoexist in magical balance, forever telling each others unique stories. This beautiful and elegant novel is a gem. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A moving post-apocalyptic fable for grown-ups. . . . Ursula K. Le Guin would approve. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Engagingly different. . . . Unfolds in graceful, luminous prose. Library Journal (starred review)
[Krivaks] sentences are polished stones of wonder. . . . The elegiac tone reflects what is lost and what will be lost, an enchantment as if Wendell Berry had reimagined Cormac McCarthys The Road. Booklist
The power of a classic myth. . . . Krivaks lyrical tribute to the natural world and the necessity for humans to coexist with it is an essential message cloaked within an allegory of haunting beauty. Shelf Awareness for Readers
A lovely, unforgettable experience. Foreword Reviews
Uplifting and beautiful, Krivak has written a gem of a fable; a portrait of survival that comes full circle. Paperback Paris
This is a novel that can change perceptions of the Earth and our place in it. BookBrowse
In a world drowning in careless excess, The Bear suggests another way, and the rewards are great. Seattle Book Review
As heartwarming as a novel about the end of the world can get. . . . The Bear is a beautiful and breathtakingly sad cautionary tale about a future thats becoming ever more believable. The Lineup
In spare and lovely prose, Andrew Krivak folds the deep past and the far future into a remarkable fable about our inheritance as humanity makes a harmonic return to the spirit and animal worlds. This book follows you, like a river under ice. Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Masters Son and Fortune Smiles
A tight yet expansive novel in prose so vivid you forget these are words and not the cedar, trout, and stones of a post-Anthropocene Earth. Through the middle of The Bear walks an unnamed girl whose determination to go on living will fill you with awe. Salvatore Scibona, author of The End and The Volunteer
Reading The Bear will bring you back to the wonder-filled stories of childhood, the sort that linger, that alter our understanding of the world, that shape who we become. Such is the simple and profound power of Krivaks unexpectedly hopeful novel. Crafted with as much care and mastery as the finest oaken bow, this is a book that manages to be both timeless and urgent, clear-eyed and tender-hearted, archetypal and unconventional: a bedtime tale told by a prophet. A wonder in itself. Josh Weil, author of The New Valley and The Age of Perpetual Light
What Booksellers Are Saying About The Bear
This is as close to a perfect novel as Ive read. . . . Krivak is working with the care and atmosphere of Denis Johnsons Train Dreams and the dire sentimentality of Cormac McCarthys The Road, but is tuned to a higher and more eternal frequency. I will treasure The Bear, and am so glad it exists to counterbalance these futile, furious times. Robert Martin, Independent Booksellers Consortium Executive Director
An essential novel for our times, The Bear encapsulates the essence of isolation and our connection to the natural world. Jenna, Eagle Harbor Book Co.
The Bear is a beautiful throwback to folk tales and fairy tales, while at the same time paying tribute to the dystopian books of today. Miranda Atkins, A Little Bookish
Beautiful. . . . Will grab you and not let go. Karen Bellovich, Andersons Bookshop
Beautifully written. . . . [The Bear] is a fable that will move into your heart as well as your mind, and stay there forever. Linda Bond, Aunties Bookstore
This slim novel is part adventure story, part fantasy and part love story to the world of nature. Tim Budd, Prairie Lights on Iowa Public Radio
I could not put down The Bear. Although an easy read, the masterful storytelling of Andrew Krivak challenges readers with ideas of survival and adventure amidst loss. . . . A simply beautiful read. Heidi Carter, Bogan Books
Krivak writes so poetically, despite the many sad moments in the story, reading it was a relaxing escape." Gabbi Cisneros, Porchlight Book Company
A sparsely told story that leaves you questioning whether we are more than just our memories. Sydne Conant, A Room of Ones Own
What a balm to read a book so lovely that moves at a measured pace in this fast-paced age. . . . This is a book that takes the reader to heart: a story to be savored, a grace to be received. Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfields Books
Krivaks nature writing is simply divine. This lyrical fable has a few white-knuckled moments, but its the storys tender spirituality that kept me up reading through the night. Emily Crowe, An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Caf
Tender and lyrical, beautifully descriptive and with just enough suspense to temper the story, The Bear is divine. Lee Virden Geurkink, Monkey and Dog Books
Ancient in its rhythm and content, Andrew Krivaks The Bear reads as a folktale from an entirely possible, fast-approaching future. The lives that may very well be lived by the last of us are lyrically and lovingly articulated across these pages. Jack Hawthorn, Raven Book Store
A story anyone can connect with. Maggie Henriksen, Carmichaels Bookstore
Achingly beautiful. Joelle Herr, The Bookshop in the Nashville Scene
Incredible. Harrison Jahnke, Country Bookshelf
Poetically written. . . . This book takes a bleak and played-out genre and gives it a new twist. An immersive story not quite about the end-times, but about new beginnings. Daniel K., Prologue Bookshop
The Bear is a beautifully written modern fable. . . . It feels both timeless and very much of our time, as it plays on anxieties about climate change and the end of human civilization. Kathleen Keenan, A Novel Spot Bookshop
Both timeless and of the moment, this moving, elegant fable for adults is the perfect antidote to our fast-paced, anxious lives. . . . A transcendent, luminous book that will stay with you. Shane Khosropour, Unabridged Bookstore
An exquisite tale of all living things existing in beautiful balance and has one of the most perfect endings of any book Ive read. Gal LeLamer, Books & Books in the Miami Herald
A modern day fable with lessons on how to reconnect with the natural world. . . . Precise and beautiful. Robert Lingle, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore
A lovely, emotional tale. Jackie Mann, Andersons Bookshop
Beautiful, poignant and magical. . . . I loved and savored every single word. Seth Marko, Book Catapult
Read The Bear to be transformed. Laura Mills, Brazos Bookstore
This book is majestic! A beautiful and poignant tribute to nature and the resiliency of the spirit. Rachel Oriatti, Andersons Bookshop
Flora and fauna further a companionless young womans education in survival in The Bear. I fought tears throughout the girls journey: her story is THAT BEAUTIFUL!. Kayleen Rohrer, InkLink Books
This was such an interesting book. Not very long, but the way the prose felt slow and meaningful pulled me in and made me slow down to read it. . . . When I finished, I felt like Id had an experience, not just read a book. Izzy Stringham, Bookbinders Basalt
This is humanity at its purest forma primal love story to our place among the wild things. Stark and beautiful. Robin Templin, Watermark Books & Caf
Krivaks little gem of a book has some of the lushest, loveliest nature writing youll ever read, but in addition to that, it has the timeless feel of a fable. . . . I never knew that a tale about humanitys end days could be so quietly powerful, and leave me with a sense of peace and optimism. Erika VanDam, RoscoeBooks
One of the best reads Ive had in a long time. Doloris Vest, Book No Further on Book City Roanoke podcast
A stunningly quiet, simple, and perfect book. Kay Wosewick, Boswell Book Company
Transcendent. . . . Simply amazing. Mike Wysock, The Book Stall
This timely, emotional fable about the dual powers of nature and human endurance is profound in its simplicity. Like all the best fables, the wisdom of Krivaks tale lingered long after we finished it. Apple Books
Widely relatable and deeply moving. Audible
What Librarians Are Saying About The Bear
A young girl and her father live alone in a mountain forest that fronts a lake in a devastated world. She learns from him how to live off the land, hunting for food, and finding shelter. The Bear is the moving story of a journey they make together to the ocean, and the bear who helps her find her way back home. For fans of The Dogs Stars (Heller) and The Road (McCarthy). LibraryReads citation, Sandy Jones Boyd, Mountain Regional Public Library
Lyrical. . . . By the end of the novel, the reader is led to accept particularly difficult aspects of the novels reality that overlap with our ownthat the world will endure without us, that natural cycles of birth and death will continue, and that human intelligence is not the only kind to have a lasting impact on the life of the planet. Joseph, Spartanburg County Public Libraries
This book reminded me to marvel at nature and its raw and innate strength. And to also marvel at the tenacity of the human spirit and how we are all shaped by our world and our experience. Melissa, Western Sullivan Public Library System
Immerses the reader in nature and explores mans relationship with the surrounding life. Kari Bingham-Gutierrez, Olathe Public Library
Krivak definitely has a gift for unique stories and I know my patrons will really enjoy his work. Meagan Brown, Cromaine District Library
Very enjoyable. Kayla Campbell, Plum City Public Library
Heartbreaking. . . . It has been nearly two months since I finished The Bear and Im still ruminating on its melancholy yet somehow hopeful ode to the beauty the natural world has to offer. Christopher Clark, Eisenhower Public Library
A book to savor. Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library
Unique, remarkable, and beautiful. Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library
Gorgeous prose and luscious descriptions of the natural world. Krivak reminds us of our own frailty and the fierce bond between human and animal. Lillian Dabney, Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum
Refreshing. . . . A simple story written with an unflinching but compassionate voice, Krivaks tale should be thoughtfully savored while it slowly winds its way into your moral conscience. Kyle Evans, Springfield-Greene County Library
Lovers of language take note: the act of reading this book is truly an experience. Karissa Fast, St. Catharines Public Library
This beautiful book about survival and community moved me deeply. Krista Feick, Columbus Metropolitan Library
Add me to those who loved The Bear by Andrew Krivak. This is one of those books that seems simplistic at first and then completely draws you in to its world. Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library
Stunning. . . . Krivak gives us a startling view of the future; of being alone and trying to understand a world that no longer exists. Janette McMahon, Fremont County Library System
This adult fable touches on themes of family, the environment, the struggle for survival, and the need for harmony with nature. I enjoyed meeting the Bear, the Puma, and the fierce unnamed female narrator who was stronger than I could ever imagine. This one is compelling. Kelly Moore, Carrollton Public Library
This was a book that really makes you think about the future and the choices that we as humans are making today. Courtney Reynolds, John Tomay Memorial Library
I ended up reading this in one sitting because I enjoyed it so much. . . . The words were simple and honest, but the picture they painted was delightful. Lauren Rhodes, St. Louis County Library
Hauntingly beautiful, written in a poetic style, I highly recommend The Bear. Judy Sebastian, Eastham Public Library and Friends of the Eastham Library
A wondrous take on love, loss and the natural world. Diane Scholl, Batavia Public Library
Very beautiful. . . . As harrowing as The Martian. . . . In these kind of scary, uncertain times, not only do you get tips for survival, but . . . ultimately this feeling of hope for how humans might complete the circle of their existence on Earth. Karen Stern, Lucius Beebe Memorial Library
This book combines the elegiac, hauntingly spare prose of Cormac McCarthys The Road with the vivid nature writing of Jack London, plus a dash of magical realism. . . . The writing is beautifully evocative, through each season and habitat. Maree Watkins, Fairfax County Public Library
More Praise for Andrew Krivak
Some writers are good at drawing a literary curtain over reality, and then there are writers who raise the veil and lead us to see for the first time. Krivak belongs to the latter. National Book Award judges citation
[Krivaks] sentences accrue and swell and ultimately break over a reader like water: they are that supple and bracing and shining. Leah Hager Cohen
Incandescent. Marlon James
A writer of rare and powerful elegance. Mary Doria Russell
Destined for great things. Richard Russo
[A] singular talent. Jesmyn Ward
An extraordinarily elegant writer, with a deep awareness of the natural world. New York Times Book Review
[Krivak] bring[s] out the vast compassion, humanity and love of his rich, fully developed characters. Star Tribune
Krivaks story and characters are mythic. Booklist (starred review)
Krivak has his own voice, given to lyrical observations on the nature of human existence. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Bellevue Literary Press, 9781942658702, 224pp.
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. From the very fi rst sentence, we’re aware that this will be a novel that grapples with human extinction. How do the man and his daughter, described as “the last two,” view their place in the world? What do you think the author is trying to say about our legacy?
2. How does the novel portray the father/daughter relationship? Is the role of the man one of teacher or is he simply a father passing along what any parent would pass along to a child? Is he aware of what is at stake? Would anything be different if the main characters were a mother and son?
3. Early in the novel, the girl watches a bear emerge from the woods and walk toward the lake. She asks her father, “Was my mother a bear?” Why does she pose this question? At another point, the father tells his daughter a fairy tale about a talking bear that saves a village. Why do you believe the author included this story within a story? And what other roles do bears play in the novel?
4. In an interview with Library Journal, the novel’s editor observed, “While we don’t ever learn what cataclysm occurred to undermine the human species in The Bear, it’s hard to read the book without thinking of our fears about climate change.” Why do you think the author chose not to be explicit about happened in the past? Did he give readers any clues? What other pressing concerns about the human condition does the book address? And what do you think the book’s message is about nature’s resiliency and the resiliency of all living creatures?
5. The author has stated that the novel took shape during a moment alone, fishing on a lake in the shadow of New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. What role does setting play in the novel? Does it become its own character? What experiences of place have shaped your own life or offered creative inspiration?
6. The novel provides a great deal of insight and authentic detail about gathering and preparing food, making clothing, and finding shelter in the wilderness. In that way, it serves as a physical survival guide. But in what ways does it also serve as a spiritual survival guide?
7. In a moving passage, the girl receives the following advice: “You need to be hungry for more than food. More than sleep. We all go to sleep and will be asleep for a long time. Be hungry for what you have yet to do while you’re awake.” How does the girl act upon this advice? From whom or what, besides her father, does she receive the gift of wisdom?
8. What can this novel tell us about grief? In what ways are feelings and expressions of loneliness and grief examined?
9. Although The Bear was written for adults and compared by many reviewers to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, readers of all ages have found that it reminds them of beloved books from their childhood such as Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. What is it about the way the story is told that accounts for this reaction? Does the novel echo any of your own favorite childhood books?
10. How would you classify The Bear? Is it a coming of age story? A fable? Utopian or dystopian? A celebration of life or an elegy for its loss?
11. Throughout the novel, the narrator refers to the main characters as “the man,” “the girl,” “her father,” etc. Why do the characters remain unnamed? Similarly, why do you think there are almost no physical descriptions of the girl or her father?
12. In a world where very little exists from human civilization, why do you believe books survived and why was it important for the father to share them with his daughter? What becomes of the books in the end?
13. What is the author trying to convey about the importance of storytelling in our lives? Do stories belong only to humans? Who is telling the story of The Bear?
14. How did you feel after finishing The Bear? Did the ending surprise you? Was there a particular person in your life you wanted to share it with?