Summer with the Bears

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Summer with the Bears: Six Seasons in the North Woods is an amazing true story of a couple who pack up and leave sunny Florida for the challenging climate and natural settings of Grand Marais, Minnesota. Jack and Patti Becklund find their new home is just loaded with wildlife, and soon, with a bit of sunflower seeds on their deck, bears are coming to visit. The first, and most meaningful cub, they named “Little Bit,” and this tiny bear, after only a couple of days, let Patti pet her. She became loyal and showed traits one thinks of in dogs rather than in wild animals. The Becklunds decide to keep their feed and their deck for females, and indeed, it becomes a haven for mamas with their cubs. Frequently, really large males wait, not always patiently, on the grass below the Becklunds’ deck as the mother bears and their cubs scramble up to feed. These bears establish their own pecking order, among the adult females and then among the cubs, and it is interesting that they all get treats, but some need to wait longer than others.

Becklund is a good writer, adding tension and excitement to his narrative. Things do get stressed when they realize that their property is totally surrounded in the proper season by hunters, and every shot they worriedly hear sends chills through their souls.

Becklund does bring up the attitude voiced by neighbors and acquaintances that their feeding and befriending the bears undermines the animals’ abilities to cope in the wilderness. The author does not settle this problem definitively, but does make an adequate case for his point of view and for his activities.