"In Eidswick's debut novel, Adam Green lives in Arcadia, an evolved, peaceful version of Puritan New England, which has somehow sprouted in an alternate reality. Disease-free and socialistic, it is a realm filled with fantastic and symbolic emblems, such as pumpkin-sized apples, magic bread, 20-foot-long bears, talking pigs, lots of redheads, and cooperative mice. Green's troubles begin when he finds a television (a box with a head in it that speaks to him) in the woods. Combined with his family history, this discovery leads to a charge of witchcraft against him. The accusation is championed by Obadiah Broke, the richest man in town, and the Rev. Calvin Mathers Cotton Makepeace Branch, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who believes sin has taken over and that pillories should be reinstated. Broke, who was disfigured and driven mad by an accident with tanning chemicals seven years earlier, is actually behind the TV incident. He seems to know a great deal about life in the other reality, including the value of oil, which he believes lies under Green's land. The book is a smart, literate, odd, and skillfully written tour de force filled with biblical, mythical, and cultural allusions. Peopled with a cast of wonderfully quirky characters, the plot takes a number of surprising and singular twists while referencing everything from Greek mythology and King Arthur to A.A. Milne's gloomy donkey, Eeyore. In addition, Eidswick displays a brilliant command of dialogue, and his prose is poetic and filled with striking imagery: "The night sky was spotted with clouds, luminous bruises spread over the stars." Strange, funny, and poignant, the story deftly wields this eccentric parable to examine a variety of philosophical, religious, and existential questions, such as the dichotomy between deeming the world as evil and worthy of punishment versus viewing life as a demonstration of God's goodness. Witty, serious, and original, this stunning tale should attract anyone who delights in an intellectually stimulating read." - Kirkus Reviews
"THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is that rare thing: a fantasy that introduces an entirely unique world that also reads as fully real. The novel takes place in a town called Arcadia, nestled in a peaceful valley but surrounded by woods filled with dangerous wild animals. The town's inhabitants are descended from a group of early Puritan settlers who journeyed to the valley through the Forbidden Forest and now live a simple, isolated existence and follow a slightly more relaxed version of their ancestor's moral code. The mix of historical and fantastical detail creates an uncanny mood that keeps you turning pages as the novel invites you to uncover its many mysteries.
"THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS succeeds in part because of Eidswick's prose. He writes with a slightly old-fashioned cadence and vocabulary that match the small town world of farmers and shopkeepers he's created. One character, for example, is "perched on the splintery riding board of his old cart, his small body wobbling with the pocks of the trail." The detail of his descriptions turn Arcadia into a place you can see, hear, and feel along with the characters; the unique voice of his prose gives you the impression you are reading about it specifically as these characters would tell it.
The other reason the novel works so well is that the characters themselves are so memorable. Eidswick assembles a large cast, from self-doubting, world-shy Adam to Daisy, to his fearlessly questioning younger sister, to Reverend Calvin Branch, desperate to return the town to the piousness his father inspired, to Wandabella Shrenker, the gossipy shopkeeper with a penchant for designing garish dresses and cooking mice into biscuits. Eidswick gives us glimpses into the heads of most of his characters, making the town feel truly alive with fully realized human beings. Even characters who do bad things are given a chance to explain themselves through internal monologue so that his imagined world comes across as complex and vivid as our own.
The combination of world-building, character development, and expert plotting makes for a compelling yarn, but THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is also more than that. It's a novel with something to say. By drawing on Puritan America for inspiration, Eidswick is able to examine both the harmful legacies the United States has inherited from that past, as well as the things of value it has cast aside. Even though it's set in an imagined town isolated in time and space, THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is full of lessons for the present day. After reading BOOK ONE: THE POLYPS OF CHRIST, you'll anxiously await whatever intrigue and wisdom Eidswick has planned for BOOK TWO." -IndieReader
"John Eidswick's The Language of Bears is told in a strong and engrossing voice, and the reader can't help but be seduced by the spell of the forest. The setting is masterfully crafted, leaving readers with powerful images of a city lost in a valley and surrounded by woodlands, a place where the bears roam and where nature heaves undisturbed. The author has imagined a story that explores the depth of human nature, of greed, and wild tales. He has a gift for character, and it is interesting to notice how he builds them through well-crafted and engaging dialogues and his powerful descriptions. This well-paced story is gripping, and it will surprise readers in many different ways--one of those stories that stand out in their originality, the plot points, and tone."
-San Francisco Book Reviews
"It hits almost every single one of my wants when it comes to a fiction book and then some." - MI Book Reviews
"This book is like reading a fairy tale after consuming a box of magic mushrooms...the surprise hit of the year. I loved it!" - Two Bald Mages
"The Language of Bears is delightfully original and satisfyingly unpredictable: highly recommended reading not for those who look for superficial action, but for readers who delight in finding an original voice that excels in alternative history and unique perspectives." - D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review