"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.
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