A tall tale about a semi-tame grizzly from Cameron (A Dog’s Purpose, 2010).
Life for Charlie Hall could scarcely be more miserable. An only child, he has lost his mother to leukemia. Since her death, his father George has shut down emotionally, just when Charlie needs him the most. And now the 13-year-old, still a runt, is facing the manhood tests of eighth grade at his school in the Idaho panhandle; Dan, once his best friend, wants to fight him, a dumb rite of passage. (The time is 1974.) Relief comes from an unexpected quarter. Out fishing, Charlie is surprised by a grizzly with a “serene” expression. He offers him his catch; the bear accepts it; a friendship is born. Charlie writes his name in the dirt; the bear follows suit; it’s Emory. The kid takes the bear up to their barn where Emory, unobserved, writes on the wall that he’s a Civil War soldier with a message. Reincarnated, is the implication. Cameron is big on reincarnation; in his debut novel, a dog was reborn three times. But here he just lets the idea hover, not knowing what to do with it; the message, at the end, is banal. There is action, though, as father and son, now on the same wavelength, unite to prevent law enforcement’s attempts to euthanize Emory who, holed up in the barn, has attracted rubberneckers and a TV crew. Charlie is a celebrity, with more than the bear on his mind as he experiences first love, intense but chaste, for seventh grader Beth. His embarrassments at the school dance stand in jarring contrast to Emory’s increasingly perilous situation at the barn. Not to worry; Cameron believes in happy endings. There will be hugs (yes, bearhugs) in a finale designed to leave you misty-eyed but glowing.
A second novel with enough faux-cute appeal to keep the fans happy.