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.
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.