"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
I was disappointed that this book didn't have more connection with Native American spirituality/mythology, especially since I read it primarily to satisfy that item in my Into the Forest reading challenge.
The Spirit Bear did not figure into the story as much as I expected it to, either, and not much time was given to exploration of whether it was "real" or not. I liked imagining that it was a sort of actual spirit charged with ushering Cole and perhaps Peter through their healing and Cole's redemption. I read elsewhere that the Spirit Bear is a symbol for peace and harmony, and this book is ultimately about finding peace and harmony within oneself.
Minus the few glimpses of the bear we had, this was more a story about the healing power of nature. It also explored themes of "paying it forward," as it was implied that both Cole's mentors were guiding him through Circle Justice to make up for past wrongs they had perpetuated that were never named. I liked the presence of Cole's mentors and also the flashbacks to the Circle Justice proceedings, especially since I generally don't go for "survival in the wilderness" stories and I was glad for the human dynamic even if none of the characters were developed very deeply. I also appreciated that the book was a thoughtful exploration of the psyche of the worst kind of bully, revealing that there are reasons that real people commit heinous acts. I don't blame Peter for not being willing to trust Cole again, though, and I feel a little skeptical about Cole's transformation -- although I guess in real life certain events, opportunities, or relationships become needed catalysts for change all the time. I'm sure it made a difference that Cole was confronted with adults who took an interest in him for seemingly the first time in his life.
I think I would have found this book to be more powerful when I was younger and some of the ideas would have seemed more "fresh" to me and the shallow characterization wouldn't have bothered me. As an adult, the book reads a bit too much like a typical "problem novel" and a dressed-up treatise on the virtues of Circle Justice.