G Elizabeth Kretchmer
October 2017, Dancing Seeds Press
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About the Book
Alternating between contemporary and historical times, Bear Medicine is a story about women helping women in a complicated, male-dominated world.
When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured by Nez Perce warriors.
Both women encounter a sacred but savage landscape. Both fall under the care of American Indian women. Ultimately, Brooke and Anne will need to overcome multiple obstacles, with the help of their new friends and native lore, to find what she seeks.
Seeking and Finding are complicated…discovering what you need and what you want, and how you are needed can result in very different journeys from your starting point. In Kretchmer’s new novel, a simple camping trip, and a week away from distractions turn into life-altering challenges for two women separated by centuries.
The author maintains her story is about women helping women in a male-dominated world. That was certainly true for Anne, the nineteenth century wife who was forced to accompany her husband on an adventure in the wild west. Brooke, the twenty-first century wife, chose her destination, as well as her destiny. In this lengthy novel, Kretchmer weaves a story of how sacrifices in the past provided a haven in the present. Both main characters of different times were enslaved by societal ideals and customs; both discovered they were capable people in their own ways.
While the journeys of both historical and contemporary women parallel the other, the author takes time to flesh out events that lead them on the route to self-discovery. Historically, a widowed Nez Pierce woman and Anne team up to create a new settlement; Brooke finds a place of healing and communal healing as a result of that teamwork. I found Brooke hard to take on many levels. She was a compliant wife to an endlessly clueless and snarky overbearing man who, once on her own, became attractive to several different men in her new environment, even while whiny and needy. Her kids were disasters, but her journey to self-discovery was worth following. I wasn’t always sure where the author was going to take me, and at times, it seems she wasn’t, either.
The setting of the story was lush and rich and the characters nicely developed. Readers who appreciate historical struggles for women’s independence and modern day struggles for women’s assertion will love Bear Medicine. I found myself wishing to spend a couple of weeks at Maggie’s Place, the haven Kretchmer created as the Wyoming settlement strictly for women.
From the Author
Bear Medicine is my third full-length work. Originally from Chicago, I’ve also published The Damnable Legacy, a novel set in Alaska about how far we’ll go to achieve our goals and at what cost, and Women on the Brink, a collection of short stories about women facing life’s unwelcome realities. My short work has appeared in The New York Times as well as various anthologies and other publications. I hold an MFA in Writing from Pacific University and a BS in Accounting from Indiana University. When I'm not writing, I'm facilitating wellness-writing workshops, advocating for the environment, or working on my organic farm in the Pacific Northwest.