I read this great book by Ben Mikaelsen, Touching Spirit Bear. Total Transformation recommended it for David, but I realized that it was too much for him, so since I checked it out from the library, I read it. I was very impressed by this book. So much so that I am going to buy it to have in my personal library.
This book is recommended for ages 10 and up. I would agree with that. I am returning it to the library, but when I purchase it, I am going to give it to my older sons to read.
I really didn’t intend for this particular post to be a book review when I started writing. I only intended for it to be about a particular portion in the book that I felt was so profound.
Well, here it is anyway-the title character in the book, Cole Matthews, is very angry and has had a lot of run ins with the law in his short life. His parents always manage to pay someone off and get him out of his mess. That time is over.
After he brags about robbing a convenience store and is caught as a result of a classmate, Peter, telling on him, he goes crazy. He ends up causing Peter brain damage. The courts say no more. He is finally faced with real jail time. He still doesn’t see that it’s his fault. He blames everyone but himself: his abusive father, his alcoholic mother, even Peter.
All hope is not lost though as he is taken under the wing of a Tlingit (pronounce Klingit) probation officer, Garvey, who wants to help and an elder, Edwin. As a way of avoiding jail (which doesn’t help anyone) Garvey convinces the court to let Cole participate in a Native American system of justice where the offender seeks to heal himself as well as make amends to the victim.
Part of the “punishment” is banishment to a remote island to live alone for a year to face up to yourself and take responsibility for your actions. Cole doesn’t believe that anyone wants to help him, so he throws away his only chance for true redemption.
On the island for only two days, he comes face to face with the Spirit bear. What happens after that is amazing. Mikaelsen takes you on the journey with Cole as he faces up to what he has done. This book will bring tears to your eyes. I think that it should be required reading for juvenille offenders to enable them to deal with their anger issues if they have them and also to take responsibility for their crimes.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those 10 and up. The main reason- the reason that touched me- was the lesson that Edwin tries to teach Cole about getting rid of his anger. He hands him a stick and tells him that the right side is his happiness and the left side is his anger. He then instructs him to break off the left side. When Cole does, Edwin asks him why he didn’t tear off the left side. Cole says that he did. He looks at the stick and realizes that the left side of the stick is still there. Edwin tells him to keep trying. Cole says that the left end will always be there. He can’t get rid of it.
Here’s an excerpt:
Edwin nods. “People spend lifetimes breaking their stick to get rid of anger. But always anger remains, and they think they’ve failed.”
“So if I can’t ever get rid of my anger, why even try?” Cole asked
Edwin reached and took the remaining piece of stick from Cole’s hand. His fingers toyed with the wood as he looked up at the sunrise that had begun to glow warmly over the trees. Then he glanced over his shoulder at the dark storm clouds that hung menacingly on the opposite horizon. He waved the stick. “Is the sky sunny, or is it stormy? he asked
Cole looked both ways and shrugged. “Depends on which way you look.” “If you looked only at the clouds, what would you say?:
“Yes, and what would you say if you looked only at the sunrise?”
……..”Sunny,” he grunted impatiently.
This is the part that touched me so; that I thought was so profound. You have to read the rest of it. I guarantee you that it will make you stop and think.
Go out and get the book, it will be well worth the money!