Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading Bear Medicine by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
4 out of 5 stars
Bear Medicine tells two stories. The first is that of Brooke, a middle class, marathon-running, oddly unworldly wife of a domineering Oregon politician, who, when taking some ‘time out’ from family life, gets mauled by a bear in Yellowstone National Park. In alternating chapters we read about Anne, in 1877, a young wife of a domineering husband, who gets separated while on an adventure trek with him, again in Yellowstone.
Brooke and Anne’s stories run constantly parallel, and are connected. Brooke goes to recuperate from her injuries nearby, cared for by a woman called Leila in a cosy log cabin; their lifestyle builds her confidence and makes her reluctant to return home. Anne is saved by a young Native American woman, Maggie, who educates her about the reality of the evils done to her people by the White Man, builds her confidence, and makes her understand how badly she was treated by her husband. Both women get early chances to return/be ‘rescued’, and reject them, though the differences in options for the women of the 19th and 21st centuries is more clearly marked later.
I found this book immensely readable, written with understanding of the author’s subjects, and well-placed wit. Ms Kretchmer sets a scene perfectly, and both her narrative and dialogue flow so well. The two women’s stories run side by side most comfortably, as the parallels and connections emerge. All characters are clearly defined, and the pace is just right, with slower passages (inner dialogue/descriptive narrative) interspersed evenly with events to keep the reader turning the pages, and I loved the insights into Native American lifestyle; the reminder of their tragic history at the hands of the so-called civilised invaders was heartbreaking.
The theme is very much one of women standing together and overcoming male domination, and I think it would be of great interest to female readers who have felt oppressed by the men in their lives or by society as a whole. I found this aspect of the novel a little dated, having been a reader of people like Erin Pizzey 20/30 years ago, but I understand that in Brooke’s world it was still very much an issue, and reading about Anne’s life was certainly enough to make me feel grateful I was born 80 years later!
I have one minor complaint, of a proofreading nature: the use of hyphens (-) instead of em dashes (—) throughout the book, which was an irritation; sometimes they were used to create both pauses and hyphenated words in the same sentence, which was very confusing (example: Shane-still on the dock-fiddled with his keys, wallet and phone-double-checking to be sure); as it was, I kept thinking random words had been hyphenated when they weren’t. Publisher, sort out your proofreader! On the whole, though, I’d definitely recommend this book, and I’d read more by this author.
When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured by Nez Perce warriors. Both women encounter a sacred but savage landscape. Both fall under the care of American Indian women. Ultimately, Brooke and Anne must each overcome multiple obstacles, with the help of their new friends and native lore, to find what she seeks.
Alternating between contemporary and historical times, Bear Medicine is a story about women helping women in a complicated, male-dominated world.
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer holds an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. Her short story collection, Women on the Brink, and her debut novel, The Damnable Legacy, were both published by Booktrope Editions. Her short fiction, essays, and freelance work have appeared in The New York Times, High Desert Journal, Silk Road Review, SLAB, and other publications. When she’s not writing, she’s facilitating therapeutic and wellness writing workshops or spending time in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three sons, and Lani the Labradoodle.
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