Touching Spirit Bear

What It's About?

The Story is about Cole Mathews, a violent juvenile thats always been in trouble with the law.

But his most recent offence, was when he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk.

As Peter suffers major injury, Cole is in great trouble, that not even his rich parent can save him from.

A parole officer, Garvey offers Cole to go to Circle Justice. Which is a healing method that is based on Native american culture. To avoid prison, Cole agrees. Cole pretends to be sorry for all that has happened and begs the circle to forgive him.

The circle sees Cole’s willingness to change and offers him

a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island.

There Cole is mauled by a Spirit Bear, A rare White bear that is highly regarded in aboriginal culture.

Cole life hangs by a thread as he waits for death.

His thoughts shift from anger to humility as Cole goes on a Journey to self-discovery. Will the Bear attack, kill him or save his soul?

Password is: booty

Author: Ben Mikaelsen

Ben Mikaelsen was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1952. He went to an English school in Bolivia and moved to the US in the seventh grade. Growing up, although Ben struggled with English, he knew that he wanted to be a writer, but he only started seriously writing in college when a college English professor encouraged.

Ben Mikaelsen’s inspiration when writing the novel was his 700-pound, 7 foot tall pet black bear named Buffy.

When writing the novel “Touching Spirit Bear” , Ben had thoroughly researched the Tlingit culture, and the portrayal of the healing methods , like the rolling of the ancestor rock, the turning of the shirt inside out, and the soaking in the pond, were all legitimate.

Info about Setting

The story took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In this story, Cole Matthews experience with violence, forgiveness, and nature as he is banished to an Alaskan island as punishment for a violent crime. During this time, he is ran into a rare bear, the Spirit Bear.

Main Characters

Cole - He is our protagonist of the story, his objective was to alter himself and not be a menace to society with some kind of assistance from garvey and edwin. when he was attacked by the spirit bear, something in the attack caused him to change, but the cause is unknown.

Garvey - Garvey is our antagonist along with edwin. little is known about garvey, but he is to be serious about things

Edwin - Edwin, he is the wise tlingit elder who is responsible for cole’s banishment.

Peter - Peter is the victim of cole’s most recent crime, head entire head was devastated from the incident

Identification and Information on Conflict

  • Character vs Character

→ his father beat him severely when he was young, while his mother weakly did not intervene. Consequently, he feels hated for them both. When he is sentenced in court, he tells the lawyer and his parents, “I never want to see your ugly faces again.” As a result of his background, Cole has no personal respect for anyone.

  • Character vs Self

→"All my parents do is drink. They hate me. Do you know what it's like waking up every morning knowing you're not good enough? There are only two things wrong with me--everything I do and everything I say. They'll never be happy until I'm dead."

He projects this self-hatred onto others and seeks to prove that he is the stronger. It is not until he is on the island and is mauled by the spirit bear and faces death, that Cole has an existential moment in which he wants to live. After he lies helpless and watches sparrows knocked from their tree dying, Cole begins to understand how much life means. When Garvey arrives to rescue him, Cole pointedly tells him, "I am okay."

  • Character vs nature

→ While the conflict with the spirit bear plays a major role in Cole's character development. The bear only fights Cole when he is first aggressive as he hurls his spear at it. Nature figures more as symbolic force and theme than as one presenting conflicts. Indeed, it is from Nature that Cole learns patience (the beaver), strength (the eagle), and whale (search for truth).


What are the themes of the novel?

  • Anger - what cole used to be all about, cole was an angry man due to his grandparents’ influence which was handed down to cole’s father
  • Forgiveness - one of the things cole learned near the end of the story, to forgive. he learned to forgive peter for what he had done to cole
  • Self Control - later on in the story, cole learned to control himself from being angry
  • Change - the effect of cole’s banishment, cole became a nice person and then knew which path to take

Brief Outline of Plot Structure

Exposition - The exposition of this story is the beginning part of the story,like it should be. It starts off with explaining Cole, his surroundings, his actions, his thoughts and details about Edwin and Garvey. His crimes, such as shoplifting get him into many arrests which he has easily gotten out of.

Initial Incident - The Initial Incident which started this novel off, and sent Cole to his banished island is what he did to Peter. After Peter blabbed about the offender(Cole) about a crime, Cole was furious. He started smashing his head in, and many other gory details which a PG Summary should not contain. This eventually lead to the Circle Justice Program which then leads to the island.

Rising Action - After many furious moments at the banishment of the Island and an attempted escape, Cole senses a presence on the island. After more angry thoughts he comes face-to-face with the spirit bear. Cole’s failure to become invisible with nature leads to the Spirit Bear mauling with him. Cole lies on the ground, thinking about life and how it just ended. He hadn’t helped society at all except be the fertilizer for new seeds. After Edwin and Garvey rescue him, and he heals up, they need to talk about what happens with him. After debating, Edwin and Garvey bring Cole back to island for a second chance, since he has shown some signs that he has changed.

Climax - Cole survives on the Island. Then after many attempts to become invisible (including rubbing “nature” on him), he manages it. And he sees the spirit bear again. He figured out that he didn’t need to physically become invisible. He just had to clear his thoughts and let the world flow on. Edwin frequently visits Cole with supplies, and in one visit he tells him Peter has attempted Suicide twice. Cole has a solution.

Falling Action - After Peter comes to the Island., he has a lot of hostility towards Cole. Coles remains calm as he teaches Peter all about the Island (the soaking pond and carrying the ancestor rock)At one point, Peter explodes with anger and starts fighting Cole. Cole refuses to fight back, which further enrages Peter. After the beating, Peter breaks down into sobs and after Cole comforts him, the become a bit more friendly towards each other.

Resolution - Peter helps Cole fill the empty space in the totem he had been carving for a long time, which was the anger. He teaches him to carve a circle, and the reason, not like Garvey thought which was for because a circle has no end, but just because that was all Peter could teach Cole to carve.

Review of the Book

I would give this book a ✩✩✩✩/✩✩✩✩✩ because I feel like it could have done a better job of doing what it did. It starts off with a strong exposition, which fully explains the background and all that with still leaving some mystery behind. All the actions in this book are relatable and make sense from a real-world standpoint. I feel sometimes it got a bit dull however, which was the real dropping point for me. I feel like a bit more action in some places would suit the book better. I can understand it from a alone-on-a-island standpoint, but I feel the author could have implemented it in somehow. Apart from that, the book did a magnificent job explaining what happened, and at no one point in the book whatsoever did I feel confused or disorientated.

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