Author(s): Ozick Cynthia
The Bear Boy is a story specific to time and place, and about the dislocation of time and place too. It is set in 1935 at the only moment in history when the idea of socialism flickered to life in the United States, when Jewish intellectuals were fleeing out of the country where they were once respected writers and professors, and when a great many people were equal to each other in that the most had little material wealth.
The oversize Mitwisser clan are German refugees who survive at the whim of their vagabond benefactor, James Albair. James is heir to the fortune amassed by his father, the author of a wildly popular series of children's books called The Bear Boy. Wayward, feckless and with money to burn, James has taken up the eccentric Mitwissers - scholarly patriach, invalid wife, and five scrappy children - as his latest caprice.
Into this chaotic household comes Rose Meadows, orphaned at the age of eighteen. Rose quickly becomes indispensable as assistant to Professor Mitwisser in his research on an arcane sect and then, inevitably, as general nursemaid, nanny and companion to the entire family. Her sole inheritance is a book: the first title in the Bear Boy series. When the actual Bear Boy appears on the Mitwisser doorstep, Rose must resist the pull of his reckless orbit as she pursues her own desires.
The Bear Boy evokes Depression-era New York from the perspective of perpetual outsiders. Brought together by coincidence and fate, the hard times they inherit still hold glimmers of past wonders and future dreams.