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Bear Daughter Paperback – September 6, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on Pacific Northwest Native Americans oral literature, Berman's touching fantasy chronicles the journey of Cloud, who at the novel's start awakens one morning as a 12-year-old human girl, when the night before she had been a bear cub. A great bear, one of the immortal "First People," otherwise referred to as a "four legs," had once kidnapped her human mother, Thrush. Cloud was the result. Taking human shape is a disturbing and difficult conversion for her, and the book's young adult audience will relate to her disorientation and awkwardness, an obvious metaphor for even your average adolescent struggle. Separated from her mother, and violently ostracized by her stepfather Rumble (the tribe's chief), Cloud strikes out on her own to seek her paternal heritage, gain self-understanding and come into her powers. Berman balances the story's mythology with convincing emotional subtext, including Cloud's desire to be accepted among her human family and the often ignoble attitudes of the human elders. With its sympathetic young heroine and density of action, this richly re-imagined folk tale may straddle young adult and adult audiences.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Richly blending mythology and folktale, Berman catapults readers into a fantastic world of shamanic wars, talking animals, and immortal beings of frightening power and awesome beauty. In keeping with the mystery of the place, young Cloud has shed overnight the bear part of her identity and wakened as a 12-year-old girl, which outrages and threatens her stepfather, King Rumble. Years before, Rumble murdered Cloud's bear father, Lord Stink; ate the bear's flesh for its power; and magically bound its ghost. Drunk on power, Rumble neither knows nor cares that the legendary Lord Stink's death has ripped a hole in the fabric of the world. Unmagical, outcast Cloud, who wants only to be a child and to be loved, is the only one who can repair the damage. Her monumental task still unrevealed to her, Cloud flees her village and Rumble's murderous threats. Thus begins a long and perilous yet exciting and often wondrous journey to wholeness. On the way Cloud will fall into many deeply depressing situations, but Berman's imagination seems to know no bounds. For as desperate as are the problems Cloud faces, their solutions are correspondingly ingenious. Berman's utterly absorbing, unforgettable first novel announces a truly original and unique voice in fantasy. Paula Luedtke
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Trade (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441013228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441013227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,702,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Redmond on September 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Heroic quests are not my favorite reading material: blood and guts, the underworld, all that death. Yet I've been taken with this daring revision of the genre, inspired by Native American myth but drawing as much on the realm of magic and the fantastic. The heroine is Cloud, twelve years old, who wakes one morning transformed, in Berman's sly inversion of Kafka, from a powerful grizzly bear into a girl. Cloud encountering her strange new body introduces one of the story's preoccupations: the difficulty of claiming all parts of herself, from delicate human fingers to the animal thirst for fresh blood. Berman's exploration of this theme is often tenderly humorous, sometimes startling, never trite.

Bear Daughter is a riveting fantasy with an array of wizards, plot twists, and yes, heroic quest conventions. It's hard to put down. But Berman's up to more than just a page-turner here with her bear-girl on a quest. Bear Daughter is a foray not just into the mythic and actual past of the Northwest coast, but into a fantastic ecology that reveals a piercing clarity regarding the destructive and redemptive powers of the natural world. The world of Bear Daughter comes alive--the orcas and salmon that Berman describes are gorgeous renditions of the inhabitants of the Northwest waters. At the same time, this landscape is a shifting, eerie, interior world, reflecting the emotionally chaotic path of the young heroine, resisting her destiny almost every step of the way. You will find this novel classified as science fiction/fantasy, but it should find enthusiastic readers interested in women's issues, nature, myth or just a really good read.
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Format: Paperback
Bear Daughter evokes American Indian myth and lore of the Pacific Northwest, an unmined and ignored realm, and Berman knows her stuff. This is rich in detail and fully realized, with a young adult story line that is so true of heart, so honest in its emotional textures that it should appeal to any fiction reader. There's been a good deal of talk about where fantasy should go after Potter, and back to Narnia and more Brit Isles sorcery settings is a stale move. Let me profess this...Bear Daughter offers a truly original direction. A must read. And a must tell your friends.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a reader of fantasy or science fiction; I came to this book as an anthropologist who works with Native peoples. As such I am sensitive to a host of social and intellectual issues raised by this book, including cultural appropriation and the definition and use of fiction, myth, and fantasy. The author is also an anthropologist and addresses many of these on a web site. This book can be read and discussed on many levels, which is one of its many virtues. But simply as a reader response....

I encountered Bear Daughter when it was first released and have not stopped thinking about it since. I've purchased many copies as gifts. This book is powerfully experiential-I've never been so deeply transported by words into the essence of another cultural reality. Like her subjects, this book is magical: Berman's words evoke sensory worlds:light, color, scent, sounds-these provoke sensory and emotional responses in the reader. Once captivated, the reader is forced to accompany the protagonist as she is propelled through a series of confrontations with profound forces in often fearful territory. These are at once both culturally specific and universal. In a word, epic.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bear Daughter is a book that renews my faith in the fantasy genre. Fantasy so often seems stuck in the Northern/Western European rut, reworking the same legends and material over and over. Author Judith Berman is a card-carrying anthropologist who uses cultures of the Pacific Northwest as the material for this tale of a girl's journey.

One day a bear wakes up to find she has become a girl. It turns out that her mother is a human woman and her father is a deity in bear form. After spending her childhood as a bear, her bear form falls away and she is suddenly a girl on the brink of womanhood. Her mother's people name her Cloud, and she begins the task of learning to be human. However, she is troubled by dreams, and is driven by internal and external circumstances to address the cause of her recurrent dreams.

All this takes place in a very realistically depicted Pacific Northwest Native American community, with traditions and practices that ring true. The author doesn't clobber the reader with her scholarship - rather it adds richness to every aspect of the story. Similarly, Berman is not constrained by her material, but is able to use it as a point of departure for her craft, creating new settings that are consistent with the cultures she knows well, but are new.

The subject of the book is a young adult, but this is not an easy read. The topics are no gnarlier than most young adult books cover, but Cloud's journey is a complex one. No doubt her trials will seem more immediate to a younger reader, but this is a book for adults to enjoy just as much.
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One day a bear wakes up as a 12-year-old girl, and her life is changed.

Cloud is the human Thrush's daughter, but also Lord Stink's--the bear king. When she awakens as a girl Thrush's current husband Rumble ostracizes her, and her Aunt Glory takes her into her own home and teaches her how to be human. But when Rumble killed Lord Stink and Cloud's brothers, he took on some of Lord Stink's power, and that power is corrupting him and the human world.

Haunted by dreams of her ghost brothers, Cloud must go on a quest to rescue the bones of her bear family and rid the human world of corruption, but to do so she must acknowledge both the human and the bear within her.

Bear Daughter combines Native American spiritual mythology with a more Western quest narrative that reminded me of the wild swans fairy tale (an analogy she also makes in this wonderful interview:[...]). It's a unique fantasy novel, and I enjoyed the mythology and the connection with the wild. I did feel frustrated by the middle--Cloud pursues the same quest throughout the novel, but the quest is constantly thwarted, over and over in countless ways. It becomes a bit annoying, after a while. However, I loved both the beginning and end, as well as the mythos. 3.5/5
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