Melinda Moustakis (author); BEAR DOWN, BEAR NORTH; The University of Georgia Press (Fiction: Short Stories) $24.95 ISBN: 9780820338934
Byline: Karen Rigby
Winner of the 2010 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, Bear Down, Bear North gathers thirteen stories about the vulnerabilities of the heart as well as on family loyalty enduring in spite of discord. The Alaskans portrayed, several of whom recur in more than one story, are expectedly tough when faced with fishing accidents, domestic abuse, animal deaths, and the wreckage of a plane, among other hardships. Yet Moustakis transcends easy archetypes. Her characters are more than stoic examples of pioneering backbone; they emerge as figures whose near-tensile strengths are tempered by the struggle to connect with those they love.
Featured in journals such as the Kenyon Review and nominated for five Pushcart prizes, Moustakis captures her native environs with an acute sense for everyday conflict. In "The Weight of You," Gracie is unable to confront her brother Jack's alcoholism; in "Miners and Trappers," she considers the problem of serving as an intermediary between Jack and his concerned wife while acknowledging that memories of a shared childhood complicate her role. The question of what it means to protect someone in return for their...