In this debut work of fiction, ONeill tells a tale of a bear and her pets that explores its characters’ psychological problems.
Bea is a bear who developed an exercise program to stay “wee” after being bullied about her weight. Many of her physical exercises are connected with honey, her “’be good to myself’ treat”; they include “STEPSTOOLING” to reach a jar of honey, and “FINE MOTOR WEIGHT LIFTING” to scoop it into her mouth. She also does mental exercises, such as mindfully noticing things around her, meditating, and talking to “THE MAKER OF EVERYTHING.” During one of Bea’s strolls, she befriends a cat named Scruffy, invites him to her cave, and becomes his caregiver. Scruffy had run away from an abusive home and he retained many traumatic memories, which complicated his new life with Bea. When his nighttime yowling keeps her up, she evicts him from her cave. But after consulting with her wise beaver friend, she decides to resume taking care of Scruffy (whom she renames “Scruffles”), and she protects him from other feline bullies. Later, she also takes in Sweet Puppy, another previously abused animal with poor self-esteem. Bea learns to deal with her own and others’ psychological issues with the help of her many exercises, and especially, the help of “THE MAKER.” Everyone eventually finds balance and happiness. Bea’s exercises may give readers some new ideas about how to solve their own problems. However, the book’s adult themes, such as physical abuse and “co-dependent” relationships, seem out of place, given the juvenile tone. Also, the story’s morals are often ambiguous; for example, it’s unclear whether taking care of Scruffles and Puppy is intended to be seen as good (because Bea is being charitable) or bad (because it brings significant problems into her life). Other lessons are heavy-handed, such as the importance of thanking and consulting God. There are also distracting typos (such as “luxuary” on the first page) and grammatical errors throughout.
An earnest effort, but its mature themes and convoluted messages will likely be lost on younger readers.