The Blue Bear

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Alaskan guide and nature photographer Lynn Schooler’s first book, The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship, Tragedy, and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness, is part memoir, part nature essay, part survival guide, and part quest story. Schooler, afflicted from childhood with scoliosis, writes with refreshing honesty about his life in the Alaskan wilderness, a life that has left him all too often alone and aloof.

It is through his friendship with Japanese nature photographer Michio Hoshino, however, that Schooler learns to open himself to another human being. Together, the two men seek to photograph the rare and elusive glacier bear, also known as the blue bear because of the blue-black color of its fur. Tragically, Hoshino is killed by a bear before he and Schooler find their quarry.

Woven throughout the story of Schooler and Hoshino’s friendship is the story of Schooler’s life, his painful scoliosis, his love for a murdered woman, and his deep respect and affection for the Alaskan wilderness. Schooler writes with the pen of a poet as he describes Alaska’s Glacier Coast, and with the eye of a nature photographer as he details the teeming wildlife. Above all, however, The Blue Bear follows one man’s search for meaning, meaning he derives when he captures the glacier bear on film. As he writes, “Until then, I never perceived how each and every event and encounter of an entire lifetime...leads from one to another...that we might learn those lessons which show us our worth and our place at each moment...” Schooler’s book is a quiet testimony to his teacher Michio Hoshino, and to the Alaskan wilderness he calls home.