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Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction Ser.) Paperback – October 1, 2012
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In this sharply-crafted debut collection, Moustakis invites readers into a world filled with gruff characters, breathtaking wilderness, and a fierceness of spirit as crisp as the Alaskan winter . . . The gifted Moustakis' attention to detail and blunt, sharp prose will surely resonate with readers and fellow writers alike.(Publishers Weekly (starred review))
The Kenai is the lifeblood that flows through Moustakis’ arrestingly concise, subtly poetic, and piercing short stories about several generations of an extended family.(Booklist (starred review))
Moustakis allows readers to fully witness how experience―from a poverty that necessitates scavenging through the belongings of the dead to a younger sister’s beating―can shape lives without creating eternal victims. Burdens become gritty, matter-of-fact reminders that profound emotions often lie behind even the most unflinching exteriors. A welcome tribute to working class lives, Bear Down, Bear North is a debut of impressive voices in the wilderness.(ForeWord Reviews)
Melinda Moustakis’ stunning debut book, Bear Down, Bear North . . . is a muscular and lyrical short story collection of moxie and love of the land set in her home state of Alaska. Moustakis’ stories are built out of short vignettes, revolving around rough childhoods, fishing, hunting, drinking and regretting, all part of the saga of several generations of a homesteading family.(Kansas City Star)
Moustakis crafts memorable characters with the raunchy dialogue of those who must grow up fast in the wilderness―'bear down'―or slink off to 'the lower 48 in places like Nashville and Omaha.'(Shelf Awareness)
Using a series of quick micro-chapters ― an approach sometimes called 'modular fiction' ― Moustakis jumps between past and present in collages of verbal snapshots that crowd upon each other to create an indelible mood and characters as focused and real as those in John Steinbeck's novels.(Anchorage Daily News)
Bear Down, Bear North plunges its reader deep into tangled relations and beautiful places. This small craft of 13 linked stories holds everything necessary to survive the frigid Alaskan waters. . . . Melinda Moustakis works words attentively and playfully, slipping like a skater among her subjects, whether describing frenzied salmon spawning in the Kenai River or rowdy children rescuing a bird from a privy.(High Country News)
Bear Down, Bear North is a beautiful collection of interlinked short stories, showing landscapes as ruggedly sparse as the often bleak but still lyrical prose, where people eat unspecified tins or starve until the next moose wanders past their door, and the secret world of fishing becomes poetry in motion . . . You can feel Moustakis’ knowledge and love for her state emitting from every well chosen word. I cannot wait to read more of what she produces; this is one writer worth watching.(For Books' Sake)
From the Back Cover
"Here is a writer who truly has everything--clean and radiant prose; unforgettable characters; formal designs for story after story that are innovative yet utterly readable. All of this happens, moreover, in a thrilling setting, on Alaskan homesteads and waterways where beauty and danger color even the most ordinary day. Moustakis' women are brave and tough, but full of heart in every sense of the term. Her men can do everything the wilderness asks of them, except love themselves enough to stop drinking. Bear Down Bear North will be an indispensable collection, not only to read but to teach."
--Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule and winner of the National Book Award
"Every so often--make that all too rarely--a work of fiction that is rooted in place appears in which the very language--natural and elemental--seems as much a feature of the terroir as the weather, soil, trees, rivers. Writers of the American South--Twain, Faulkner, O'Connor, Welty--come immediately to mind. Bear Down Bear North is set a long way from the American South. But Melinda Moustakis has, in her debut collection of linked stories, written such a book."
--Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago
"Melinda Moustakis has oceans of talent. This portrait of the creatures, human and otherwise, that inhabit the rough edges of Alaska is unrelenting and sometimes even merciless, but never at the expense of the real emotion contained therein. Her prose is full of the same deep beauty, the same ancient rhythms and cadences of the big spaces she is describing: mountain, glacier, river and sky."
--Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
"Bear Down Bear North has a tooth-and-claw sensibility that brings to mind Jim Harrison and Elwood Reid. Immediately I was lost in the hard poetry of the sentences, lost in the wilds of Alaska, lost under the whiskey spell of a writer who knows how to wield a knife, a rifle, a fishing reel as well as she does her sharply honed language. I am completely in love with the stories of Melinda Moustakis."
--Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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All of the stories are good, but here are my top 5:
1) "The Mannequin in Soldotna" (seriously, this one is BASS-worthy and hard to top)
2) "Some Other Animal" (very original, fresh--hard to write animals (dogs) this interestingly)
3) "They Find the Drowned" (Moustakis has the modular form down pat, as also demonstrated in "The Mannequin in Soldotna")
4) "This One Isn't Going To Be Afraid" (mosaic meditation on generational ties, rifts, and womanhood)
5) "The Weight of You" (reminds me of Dan Chaon--gritty realism with flits of subtle magic)