1/12/2015 – Book Review: Bear Shadow by John Neely Davis
Winner of the Janice Keck Literary Award for Fiction, when you close this book for the final time after reading the last sentence on the last page you will say to yourself, “This truly is an award winning novel.”
Bear Shadow follows the turbulent seventy-year life journey of Geoff Rydges. Born to an Australian itinerant sheepherder and an Aborigine woman, he is first abandoned by his mother. Following an arduous and risky sea journey to America, and then a perilous and life threatening cross-country trip he finds himself in East Tennessee, and once again abandoned.
Taken in by a former schoolteacher and her blind and mute husband, a retired judge, Geoff begins a more promising life. It will be a life full of love and hatred, secrets and revelation, success and hardship, evil and revenge.
Mr. Davis weaves a tale of mountain people at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century as they wrestle with themes as current as today’s headlines; bigotry, racism, molestation, incest, and murder. These are mean and violent subjects yet the author skillfully handles them with an intelligence and tenderness that doesn’t offend the reader’s eye.
The title is a reference to a landmark in the story where on only one day of the year, the third of September, a setting sun’s rays hit a mountain profile causing it to cast a shadow in the likeness of a bear’s nose, ears, and front legs. The spot takes on a special meaning in Geoff’s life as he sets out to build a home for himself and his future family.
As a reader you will never regret the hours spent reading this unforgettable story.