BOOK REVIEW: Spring Bear, by Betsy Connor Bowen

Date(s) read: October 20, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Novella

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In Evvie Mallow, author Betsy Connor Bowen has created a contemporary classic. Born and raised in the Maine woods, her family disintegrating around her, Evvie is caught in a conflict between irreconcilable forces — the instinct to protect her unborn child and the freedom to choose a life for herself. With dignity and grace, she keeps a Yankee silence about her own acts of courage and self-sacrifice.

My Thoughts
Spring Bear was a book I won through Goodreads a few years ago. It had sat in my pile of TBR books since then until I finally decided it would be a good thing to read and review it.

A small “novella,” Spring Bear tells the story of Evvie Mallow who, when she finds out that she is with child, takes matters into her own hands, battling against her family in order to give her child the freedom it needs.

This is the first novel of author Betsy Connor Bowen and it is a sad, yet enjoyable read. The beginning and the ending of the novella, in my opinion, are the best parts with Bowen weaving beautiful atmospheric landscapes of Maine in the winter—something I feel accustomed to, living in rural Alberta, Canada where the winters are long and cold, and the taste of fresh vegetables in the spring makes it all seem worth the wait.

Aside from the descriptions mentioned above, I felt the novella to be slightly disjointed and confusing to read. Perhaps it’s the curse of being the first novel, but I thought characters were lacking depth and emotion. Conversations were had with dialogue only, without any descriptions to accompany them, nothing to say what the characters were feeling while speaking the words. Sentences were short and the flow seemed off for most of the story. I wanted to be able to feel what the characters were feeling, see and hear what was going on around them.

There was also some confusion with the timeline throughout the book. Within half of the book, more than a year had passed, though where at one point Bowen would go from January through to April, all of a sudden it’s February again—was this a writing error, or was it meant to be a flashback? At another point, on page 40, Bowen talks about “the last Saturday in March,” and then 6 pages later she’s talking about the thaw came in February. (UPDATE: In the newest release of Spring Bear, the timeline inconsistencies have been amended. Thank you to Betsy Connor Bowen for sending me the updated version!)

I feel like Bowen had a good idea when writing the novel, but I think it could’ve been longer, filled with more detail, more of those beautiful descriptions of Maine. I wanted her to take her time and flesh out the characters more, make me fall in love with Evvie so that I could really feel like I’m on her side, but the book was too short for any great detail on the characters.

Pelletier was a good character, but I felt like there should have been less focus on him and his family—more on his work—and more on Evvie, our main character. A lot of Pelletier’s family storylines seemed to have nothing to add to the novel and it really could’ve survived without.

I do hope Bowen keeps honing her craft—for being such a short novella, Spring Bear is still an enjoyable story.

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3 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Spring Bear, by Betsy Connor Bowen

  1. Thank you, Kristilyn, for reading Spring Bear and for your review. The edition you read has been replaced by a second one that I will send you. The chronology problem got fixed and there is a new cover. I intend to keep writing about Soper’s Mills. My style ideal (Ernest Hemingway) remains the same. Showing, not telling. Spare use of adjectives and adverbs. The feeling should be implied, not stated. The iceberg theory — most of a story is suppressed, implied, felt. (Re the Pelletier story line, it was in there for balance. Some people liked it and some not). A first attempt and I will keep working at it.

    My next book, forthcoming from Potomac, is a biographical memoir — Truth Teller (2013) — completely a departure from Soper’s Mills, but just this once.

    Love your blog. Keep it going.

    • Thanks for the response! Like I said, it was a great first novel and I really look forward to reading more of your works in the future – and reading more about Soper’s Mills! 🙂

  2. Pingback: In My Mailbox #5 « Reading in Winter

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