In Kiefer’s (The Infinite Tides, 2012) dark, lyrical novel, a man learns that no matter how hard he may try to atone for his sins, he can't outrun his violent past or his most painful mistakes.
Bill Reed seems like a quiet loner with a difficult but satisfying life: running a sanctuary for wounded animals, dating the local veterinarian, worrying about preparing for the harsh Idaho winter. Though he sometimes has to make the tough decision to put down gravely injured animals, he also finds meaning and solace in his relationships with the animals he cares for, most particularly the blind grizzly Majer. But Bill has a secret past that reawakens when his childhood friend is released from prison, and he finds it impossible to hide from the person he used to be and the things he did as that person. Eloquent and shattering, this novel explores, in gritty detail, how penance sometimes does not lead to redemption, a modern take on the story of Eden. Kiefer is a master wordsmith, and his dense and beautiful language intensifies the pain and isolation of the main character. He moves smoothly from past to present, from third-person narration to second-person, including and entangling the reader in the novel’s heartbreak. The connection forged between Bill and Majer, which offers an emotional climax more stirring than the final action scenes, is both warmly compassionate and deeply, deeply tragic. This is a novel about duality: the loyalty and betrayal of friendship; the freedom and imprisonment of the spirit; the wild connection between human and animal; the goodness and horror that live in each of us.
Devastatingly beautiful. This novel embodies why we write and why we read.