Bear Daughter

Judith Berman, Author
Judith Berman, Author Ace Books $16 (422p) ISBN 978-0-441-01322-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Based on Pacific Northwest Native Americans oral literature, Berman's touching fantasy chronicles the journey of Cloud, who at the novel's start awakens one morning as a 12-year-old human girl, when the night before she had been a bear cub. A great bear, one of the immortal ""First People,"" otherwise referred to as a ""four legs,"" had once kidnapped her human mother, Thrush. Cloud was the result. Taking human shape is a disturbing and difficult conversion for her, and the book's young adult audience will relate to her disorientation and awkwardness, an obvious metaphor for even your average adolescent struggle. Separated from her mother, and violently ostracized by her stepfather Rumble (the tribe's chief), Cloud strikes out on her own to seek her paternal heritage, gain self-understanding and come into her powers. Berman balances the story's mythology with convincing emotional subtext, including Cloud's desire to be accepted among her human family and the often ignoble attitudes of the human elders. With its sympathetic young heroine and density of action, this richly re-imagined folk tale may straddle young adult and adult audiences.