A woman park warden who works in a Rocky Mountain National Park spends her time on such tasks as bear patrol, locating tourists who are lost or in other physical danger, and policing park rules. She has a particular affinity for grizzly bears, largely stemming from an experience she had in a Neolithic cave in Spain. During her work and her travels, she observes various ways in which bears are mistreated in parks, sometimes even by researchers with seemingly good intentions. While an out-of-control fire rages through the national park, the woman park warden, with two grizzly bear skulls in hand, begins a difficult and dream-like journey to the park boundary--where wild animals can seem like ghosts and trauma can strike as suddenly as lightning. One of the grizzly skulls, the one that was given to her, begins to talk to her. Told in an experimental style that mixes realism and magical realism, and interrupted by photographs and by the voice of a bear, Bear War-den explores themes of personal and ecological loss, trauma, and of women and non-human animals dealing with oppression within a male-dominated, and often paramilitary-like Parks Management system.
"An important and far-reaching addition to the vital genre of eco-fiction, Vivian Demuth's Bear War-den fuses lyricism, romance, mystery and human interest in a novel that simultaneously critiques the slyly coded racist and sexist attitudes encountered by its female park warden protagonist. Suffused with the spirit of 'bear,' the euphoria of nature's "subtle consciousness," the understanding of those invested in the eco-village movement; enlightened also by the wisdom of First Nations people who were the original stewards of the land, this novel makes its unique impact through the inter-weaving of the various stories it tells - some real, some magic and all enthralling."--Patricia Keeney, author of First Woman and You Bring Me Wings