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The Woman who Married a Bear    by John Straley order for
Woman who Married a Bear
by John Straley
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 1994 (1992)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Who could resist a book titled The Woman who Married a Bear? Not I. Came across it in a thrift shop. It's an older book, but a true gem. I've been to Alaska twice. I now realize I didn't really see Alaska. Not the Alaska this story showed me. Eagles soaring in the sky. Killer whales feeding on a school of herring as sea lions and sea gulls snatch what they can from the fallout. Salmon dying while making the attempt to reach their mating streams. The undergrowth in the forests. The cold.

Straley's descriptions are almost lyrical. His metaphors are pure gold, as in 'hunched over their drinks like bulldogs over their last bits of food' or 'dark eyes that looked like a hole in a painting.' At the same time, he's created a mystery that encompasses the human emotions at their stretched out limits. A man is killed and his body half eaten by bears. His aged mother wants the answers as to why this happened. Cecil Younger, a PI in Sitka as well as a drunk, is to find these answers and report back to her. The characterizations are wonderful. The players that tell his tale are real. These aren't pretty people. Just everyday humans with all their faults and foibles. I could easily visualize each one. Not sure I would like to know any of them, but know I would be able to recognize them in a lineup.

With all this, the mystery is never lost, but gains in momentum until resolved. I'm sure you realize by now that I really liked this book. I highly recommend it. The man who wrote it has a sensitive soul but is a man for all that.

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