With Bear, National Book Award finalist Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth) crafts her own version of a Grimm fairy tale. In lieu of the Snow-white and Rose-red of the original story, Bear introduces readers to Sam and her older sister, Elena. Where Sam rages against their lot--financial precarity, missed opportunities, and the looming certainty of their young mother's death--Elena faces it all with a calming strength, one that Sam relies on entirely.

Born 13 months apart, the sisters have shared everything, including the terror of their mother's last boyfriend and a dream one day to sell their ramshackle house and escape the oppressive nature of their life on Washington's San Juan Island. That shared dreaming gives Sam something to hope for, a way out. For Sam, almost everything is temporary, including her job at the food counter on the ferry and her relationship with coworker Ben. Elena is her only constant, but everything changes the day a bear shows up at their door.

To say more about what happens would spoil the taut brilliance of Phillips's narrative. Bear will keep readers up late into the night, gulping down the last pages with urgency and a fierce sense of protection for these sisters. Sam rails against the injustice of "the whole world, which was twisted and threatening and completely unfair, which demanded that Sam defend herself but never gave her any of what she needed to try." The book's single word title reminds readers of the creature that threatens, of course, but also of all the things women are forced to bear, even those that feel most unbearable. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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