The Summer of the Bear

Bella Pollen, Atlantic Monthly, $24 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1974-2
The Fleming family, having lost father and husband Nicky, a cold war-era British diplomat, in a mysterious accident early in this satisfying novel (after Midnight Cactus), leaves the embassy at Bonn for refuge in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. There they begin parallel lives, dealing with their grief separately and stumblingly as a number of threats to the family slowly mount. Of the children, Jamie, the youngest, wildly imaginative and cosseted by grownups, is forced to make his own sense of his father's disappearance; acerbic Alba is overcome with anger; and quiet, dutiful Georgie is simply set adrift. Then there's Letty, their mother, who retreats almost entirely as her grief becomes increasingly painful and she is forced to confront new and disturbing possibilities about her husband, namely, that he may have been involved in treasonous activities. The drama intensifies as an escaped bear haunts the narrative periphery and the Flemings' home becomes threatened by government development projects. Everything comes together, perhaps too neatly, but the real draw is Pollen's show-stealing, fantastic portrayal of the underparented children. (June)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-8021-4588-8
Paperback - 441 pages - 978-0-330-51906-9
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