Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ben Mikaelsen, Touching Spirit Bear

Cole Matthews is a fifteen-year-old juvenile delinquent who, in an attempt to avoid jail time for savagely beating a classmate, agrees to spend one year living alone on a remote island in southwest Alaska to complete a Native American healing process called "Circle Justice." At first, Cole is defiant. He attempts to escape, and in an ultimate act of poor judgment charges a white "spirit bear," which promptly mauls him and leaves him for dead.

So begins this outstanding novel by Ben Mikaelsen.

Like so many YA novels, this is a story about an adolescent's "growing up" and becoming a better person by novel's end. What makes this work truly enjoyable, however, is the author's forays into Native American spirituality as he details the difficulty with which Cole must overcome his demons to achieve inner peace. Also, Cole's experiences are drawn from the author's own troubled youth and exposure to Circle Justice, so there is a voice of authenticity behind the writing that makes Cole's characterization all the more poignant.

By turns a gripping adventure and a compelling meditation on Life's tranquil beauty, Touching Spirit Bear is a great read! I highly recommend it.

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These last two months have been insane. Although I've done a ton of reading and have lots to post here, I haven't had the time or energy to do so lately. I will do what I can this week to catch you up on the things I've been reading.

The biggest literary news, of course, is the release of Thomas Pynchon's 1,085-page tome Against The Day on November 21st. I'm trying to read about thirty pages a day in order to finish it by Christmas. As of today, I'm up to page 428. It's an incredible book. As I read the novel, I hope to contribute to the PynchonWiki as well as Pynchon-L's group reading of the novel starting in January, 2007. More to follow.

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