cover image On Bear Mountain

On Bear Mountain

Deborah Smith. Little Brown and Company, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-316-80077-8

A hillbilly girl from Georgia and a rebellious Brooklyn boy find out the hard way that some family ties bind tighter than others in this highly readable novel by the author of A Place to Call Home. Ursula Powell lives in the shadow of the Iron Bear, a sculpture commissioned by a distant relative for a local college campus as a tribute to the ursine presence in Bear Creek, Ga. Fashioned by a New York artist from scrap metal donated by local families, the Bear sparks a smoldering feud between the poor, chicken-farming Powells and their wealthier chicken-processing-plant cousins, the Tibers. When the Tibers threaten to trash the Bear, Ursula's father scrapes together money the family can ill afford to install the sculpture in the Powell pasture. Resenting her father for the hardship she believes he has brought on the family, scrappy Ursula grows up fighting class oppression and backwoods superstitions. Meanwhile, Quentin Riconni, son of the artist who created the Bear, also grows up resenting his father. Quentin and his mother live in poverty in Brooklyn, while the senior Riconni devotes himself to his unprofitable art upstate. Not until 20 years after Quentin's father's death are his sculptures applauded, earning millions of dollars for his widow and son. When Quentin discovers that the Bear is owned by the Powells, he sets out on a journey of self-discoveryDone fated to include Ursula. A few too many crowd-pleasing elements are packed into this romantic weeper, but Smith practices her craft adroitly and tells a genuinely moving story. (Feb. 7) Forecast: Regional appearances in Georgia will stir interest in this novel, which may find a larger readership with fans of Anne Rivers Siddons and other Southern authors. Rights have been sold in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Norway.