The year is 1979 and the Fleming family are living in Bonn Germany where father Nicky is a diplomat. When he dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances mother Letty relocates her family to her childhood home on an Island in the Hebrides. Letty and her three children are trying to come to terms with his death but the bizarre and unexpected nature of his demise make it more difficult. The youngest son Jamie is convinced that his father is still alive so he leaves maps for his father to find . At the same time a grizzly bear has escaped from his keeper and was last seen on the Scottish West Coast. Young Jamie is convinced that the bear is somehow connected to his father.
This book is many things. There is a mystery–certainly we want to understand more about the father’s death especially since he was in diplomatic service during the cold war–so was it an accident? suicide? or maybe murder? It is the story of the family members, different personalities with different relationships with Nicky, trying to understand this death. The eldest daughter Georgie has always been the responsible one but she knows something that she doesn’t want to know. Middle daughter Alba is consumed by hate (for everything but mostly for Jamie). Young Jamie is a very special child; at eight-years-old he can neither read nor write but he processes an almost magical thinking that endears him to some and alienates him from others.
And there is the search for the bear…..
Very interesting; In 1980 a bear did escape from his trainer and spent 4 weeks on an Island in the Outer Hebrides. More information in the book’s epilogue.
I thought this book was very unique – perhaps a little slow at times – but worth it.
An Oprah pick in 2011.