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Other titles in the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction series:
Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction)by Melinda Moustakis
Synopses & Reviews
In her debut collection, Melinda Moustakis brings to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories. Born in Alaska herself to a family with a homesteading legacy, Moustakis examines the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness that are her inheritance and probes the question of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.
The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction—sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other—and live to tell the tale. While backtrolling for kings on the Kenai River or filleting the catch of the Halibut Hellion with marvelous speed, these characters recount the gamble they took that didn’t pay off, or they expound on how not only does Uncle Too-Soon need a girlfriend, the whole state of Alaska needs a girlfriend. A story like “The Mannequin at Soldotna” takes snapshots: a doctor tends to an injured fisherman, a man covets another man’s green fishing lure, a girl is found in the river with a bullet in her head. Another story offers an easy moment with a difficult mother, when she reaches out to touch a breaching whale.
This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.
"In this sharply-crafted debut collection, Moustakis invites readers into a world filled with gruff characters, breathtaking wilderness, and a fierceness of spirit as crisp as the Alaskan winter. Though there's little room for tenderness among the men and women who populate her vignettes, Moustakis has an ear for dialogue and uses the space between the notes to convey complexities. Whether her characters are attempting to rescue a bird from an outhouse, exploring the remnants of a plane crash in the forest, or merely trying to land a salmon, she infuses them with humanity. Her portraits of the men who drink too much and the women who stick with them are more than mere stereotypes; she avoids easy characterizations, giving small gestures greater weight. The gifted Moustakis' attention to detail and blunt, sharp prose will surely resonate with readers and fellow writers alike. "
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
"Bear Down, Bear North has a tooth-and-claw sensibility that brings to mind Jim Harrison and Elwood Reid. Immediately I was lost in the hard poetry of the sentences, lost in the wilds of Alaska, lost under the whiskey spell of a writer who knows how to wield a knife, a rifle, a fishing reel as well as she does her sharply honed language. I am completely in love with the stories of Melinda Moustakis."—Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh
"Here is a writer who truly has everything—clean and radiant prose; unforgettable characters; formal designs for story after story that are innovative yet utterly readable. All of this happens, moreover, in a thrilling setting, on Alaskan homesteads and waterways where beauty and danger color even the most ordinary day. Moustakis’ women are brave and tough, but full of heart in every sense of the term. Her men can do everything the wilderness asks of them, except love themselves enough to stop drinking. Bear Down, Bear North will be an indispensable collection, not only to read but to teach."—Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule and winner of the National Book Award
"Melinda Moustakis has oceans of talent. This portrait of the creatures, human and otherwise, that inhabit the rough edges of Alaska is unrelenting and sometimes even merciless, but never at the expense of the real emotion contained therein. Her prose is full of the same deep beauty, the same ancient rhythms and cadences of the big spaces she is describing: mountain, glacier, river and sky."—Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
"Every so often—make that, all too rarely—a work of fiction that is rooted in place appears in which the very language—natural and elemental—seems as much a feature of the terroir as the weather, soil, trees, rivers. Writers of the American South—Twain, Faulkner, O'Connor, Welty—come immediately to mind. Bear Down, Bear North is set a long way from the American South. But Melinda Moustakis has in her debut collection of linked stories, written such a book."—Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago
Table of Contents
The Mannequin in Soldotna 3
The Weight of You 17
Us Kids 33
This One Isn’t Going to Be Afraid 43
Point MacKenzie 53
Miners and Trappers 65
Some Other Animal 89
Mr. Fur Face Needs a Girlfriend 107
They Find the Drowned 125
What You Can Endure 137
The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show 147
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