The Pequod Review:
Marian Engel's seventh novel, Bear, takes place in northern Ontario. A lonely and unfulfilled 27-year-old female librarian (Lou) from Toronto is tasked with cataloguing the library of a wealthy patriarch (Colonel Cary) who has recently passed away and donated his collection to Lou's employer (the Heritage Institute). This requires Lou to travel to Cary's estate on a small remote island, where she meets the island's resident bear and forms a relationship that eventually becomes a sexual one. The plot is totally ridiculous (and the image on the paperback cover is even more comical) but Engel is a very good writer, and the book finds a way to go beyond its shocking subject material to explore Lou's loneliness, independence and desire to escape social conventions. "There was a depth in him she could not reach, could not probe and with her intellectual fingers destroy...What had passed to her from him she did not know."