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The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship, Tragedy, and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness Hardcover – May 7, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"People step into the [Alaskan] landscape and vanish without a trace," writes wildlife guide Lynn Schooler in this ode to the wild beauty of the Alaskan coast, an unusual friendship, and a mysterious bear with fur the color of "burnished metal." Schooler spent a decade searching for the elusive blue (or glacier) bear with Michio Hoshino, Japan's preeminent wildlife photographer. Hoshino was a gentle genius who would sit still for hours, his face swelling from mosquito bites, for the perfect photograph, and who had the same patience and consideration for a bruised heart like Schooler's. Schooler had lost all ability to trust, scarred first by the scorn of classmates for his twisted body and finally by the brutal murder of the woman he loved. But as a guide--both for wildlife photographers and for readers of this evocative and gracefully composed memoir--Schooler richly reveals the place that sustains him. He makes remarkable connections between whales and the complex workings of old-growth forests, between glaciers dropping 100-foot columns of ice into waiting fjords, and the breathing of the planet. Ultimately, though, it is Hoshino's death by a bear that finally enables Schooler to make peace with humanity and death. A quiet, profound gem. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

The strength of this beautifully crafted memoir lies in its evocation of the overpowering Alaskan landscape and the thoughts it imposes on the author's agile and receptive mind, gradually opening his solitary heart to the grace of true friendship. As photographer and writer Schooler recounts, it's been his lifelong tendency to turn inward, ever since his "grandmother's hunchback gene put its weight on my shoulder... trying to hold me down even as my body grew taller." At 16, he fought his scoliosis by strapping on a steel body brace that extended from his chin to his hips, isolating him from other kids. It was a distance he chose to maintain when, two years later, he exchanged his brace for a backpack and departed for the lonely freedom of the countryside around his Alaskan home. Readers meet him as a middle-aged wilderness guide based in Juneau, emotionally battered by the brutal death of a woman he loved, yet still subsumed by the endlessly unfolding drama of wind, weather, predators and prey along the glaciered coast. On an auspicious chartered trip, Schooler leads renowned nature photographer Michio Hoshino to a circle of humpback whales that explode to the surface of a sun-flecked sea with brimming mouthfuls of herring. The Japanese man's simple questions and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world and to his guide slowly draw Schooler out. Over the next decade, the men's bond deepens as they decide to pursue the rare and elusive glacier, or "blue," bear in an archetypal journey whose meaning becomes apparent only after Schooler has suffered the loss of his friend. 8 pages of color photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066210852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066210858
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By John Flora VINE VOICE on July 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was driving around, running errands on a hot June day, when I stumbled across a National Public Radio talk show on which Lynn Schooler was promoting this book. By the time it was over, I was at the nearest bookstore, sipping a cup of coffee and reading the first chapter of The Blue Bear.
Schooler is a natural-born story-teller and his knowledge and love of the Alaskan wilderness make every paragraph glow with authenticity.
Like most good books, the Blue Bear can be enjoyed and appreciated on many different levels: it's a wonderful adventure story, it captures the precious qualities of friendship and it encapsulates Schooler's life-affirming world view in a way that is powerful, but never preachy.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Pat Smith on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book had more impact on me than anything I've read in the past few years. I've never especially wanted to see Alaska (too cold) and never appreciated it as a special place, but Lynn Schooler's writing pulled me in to the land and its enchanting forms of life and interesting residents. I kept thinking how brave he was to write as he did about his demons and pains and the healing he painfully found, as elusive for most of us as the Blue Bear itself. I taught classic English literature for years, and I know powerful, gripping language when I see it. This is the real thing. If I could write to Schooler, I'd tell him how moving his book was. Read it right away, and slowly.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is true literature. The authors discriptions are very visual. I could not put the book down. It is more than just an adventure book. It is a story of true intimacy,personal discovery and tragedy. Schooler opens himself to the reader as if he is sharing his personal intermost secrets to his closest friend. It changed my life.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Alden on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sprinkled with interesting forays into Alaskan biology, history, culture, oceanography, the ups and downs of running a guide service, and the challenges, rewards, and hardships inherent with living in a place like Alaska, "The Blue Bear" is a book that defies categorization in many ways because it seems to be about so many different things, but Lynn Schooler writes with a clarity and depth of perspective which prevents the book from seeming trivial or glossed over. Some people are not patient with books which plunge into a section or chapter that may or may not relate directly to the underlying narrative thread. I for one do not mind these "offshoot branches" in books, so long as they hold my interest, as is the case with this book. A casual reader might think for a moment that Schooler is merely grandstanding and showing off his vast knowledge of his subjects, flexing his outdoor experience and intellect....but look just a bit deeper.... it becomes readily apparent that this is a writer who is unafraid of questioning himself or freely admitting that he is not always correct, who openly acknowledges and discusses his own faults (and we all have them) in a candid and refreshing way.

Reading this book also made me wish that I had the opportunity to meet Michio Hoshino, the late wildlife photographer whose work is respected worldwide. This is another testament to Lynn Schooler's writing. In all probability, my trails may have intersected with Michio's at different times during my years in Fairbanks while attending UAF and working on photography symposiums as a volunteer, but sadly, I never had the chance to meet the man whose work I admire very much, and worse yet, I never will.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "griz581" on May 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Blue Bear is one of the best and most concise expressions of the meaning of life that I have ever read since Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Especially Schooler's experience with the Kingfisher and the crows. It's a beautiful story about love and friendships between man and nature, man and himself, and man and God, however one envisions Him. I could not put the book down once I started to read it. Schooler's quotes from Michio's book seemed to hold a very personal message for me.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Albert Frost on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
An amazing story coupled with great writing makes for a great read. I've traveled to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest three times and have never read a book that does a better job of summing up the power and beauty of the region. Lynn Schooler adds such personal touches that I feel I was there with him and Michio. His feelings about nature, glaciers, and the grand scheme of life and death remind me of the book 'Freedom is the Highest Good' by Tim Hammell
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The librarian said that she thought I might like this book because it was about bears. She was totally correct but not just because it was about bears. It is like spending years in Alaska with a knowledgable friend. Eye opening in so many ways. Best book on Alaska since "Coming into the Country".
Mr Schooler has included everything he knows into this book and all is very interesting. Highly reccomend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "apws9" on September 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book. Every personal and public library would be enriched by a copy. I wish I could buy 1000 copies and donate them myself.
The story is a deeply-felt, tragic tribute to the universal themes embodied by a single man, Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino, but more particularly, by a powerful friendship. The author explores the significance of human connection in all its painful and exhilarating manifestations. His landscape is not only the Alaskan frontier, but also the rifts, chasms, towers and summits of his own life. His treatment of both geographies is intense, humble, deft and intimate. This is a story of survival and triumph that is timeless and applicable to the life experience of everyone. This is a book of a lifetime that can change you for the better... if you let it.
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