Louisa Meets Bear
One of the most perceptive, compassionate writers of fiction in America…Immensely talented and brave. Michael Schaub, NPR
Extraordinary…When you reach the final page, you’ll be sad to leave Gornick’s universe behind. “A” Entertainment Weekly
Chosen as a Fresh Pick for Your Book Club by Oprah.com
“Brilliantly constructed…” ★Starred Review Publishers Weekly
“Profound brilliance…” ★Starred Review Booklist
“Achingly eloquent…” MORE Magazine Summer Reads Selection
“Exquisite…” BBC Best Beach Reads
About the Novel
When Louisa and Bear meet at Princeton in 1975, sparks fly. Louisa is the sexually adventurous daughter of a geneticist, Bear the volatile son of a plumber. They dive headfirst into a passionate affair that will alter the course of their lives, changing how they define themselves in the years and relationships that follow. Lisa Gornick’s Louisa Meets Bear is a gripping novel in interconnected stories from an author whose work “starts off like a brush fire and then engulfs and burns with fury” (The Huffington Post).
Reading Louisa Meets Bear is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, as we uncover the subtle and startling connections between new characters and the star-crossed lovers. We meet a daughter who stabs her mother when she learns the truth about her father, a wife who sees herself clearly after finding a man dead on her office floor, a mother who discovers a girl in her teenage son’s bed. Each character is striking, each rendered with Gornick’s trademark sympathy and psychological acuity. We follow them over the course of a half century, from San Francisco to New York City and from Guatemala to Venice, through pregnancies, tragedies, and revelations, until we return to Louisa and Bear.
With characters as flawed and deeply human as those of Elizabeth Strout, and with Alice Munro’s gift for piercing insight into the lives of women, Louisa Meets Bear grapples with whether we can–or can’t–choose how and whom we love.
Praise & Reviews
Extraordinary writing; I fell in love on the first page.
—Library Journal (Barbara’s Picks)
Lisa Gornick is perhaps better qualified than most of us when it comes to asking questions about what it means to be a feeling person. It’s not just because of her education and training (she’s a Yale- and Columbia-educated former psychotherapist), but also because she’s one of the most perceptive, compassionate writers of fiction in America. All of that is on display in Louisa Meets Bear, her third and finest book . . . [Gornick is] committed to having her characters speak for themselves, and she doesn’t force resolutions just because they’d be convenient. That’s part of what makes Louisa Meets Bear such a wonderful, perfectly executed novel—it’s not just the beautiful writing, it’s the honesty behind it, which she commits to even when it’s brutal. ‘In the end, this is everyone’s fate: our remains outstrip our lives,’ one character reflects. It may not be comforting, but it’s true, and it takes a writer as immensely talented and brave as Gornick to say it.
–Michael Schaub, NPR
Gornick’s brilliantly constructed third novel (after Tinderbox) offers a seamless series of events, spanning from 1961 to 2009, that explore the full spectrum of life in all its bizarre coincidences, tragedies, and passions. Presented as an array of interconnected stories that focus on different characters (à la A Visit from the Goon Squad), with shifting uses of first, second, and third person, Gornick’s book ties together her characters . . . [with] dazzling plot construction. But this book is so much more-at its heart is the torrid relationship between Louisa and Bear that, decades later, comes full circle in a remarkably revelatory way. Gornick captures all the heartbreak and joy of what it is to be human.
–★STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly
Delicately nuanced and emotionally perceptive…Gornick’s exploration of loneliness and loss, private connections and personal upheavals resonates with comforting familiarity and profound brilliance. Utterly human and keenly humane, her heroes and heroines are our friends and enemies, our very selves for better and worse.
–★STARRED REVIEW, Booklist
In this extraordinary novel, Louisa and Bear, both students at Princeton, meet in 1975. Their charged romance sets into motion a series of events that ripples through the lives of the people around them…It’s rare to find a novel like this where you become equally emotionally engaged with multiple protagonists spread across multiple story lines. When you reach the final page, you’ll be sad to leave Gornick’s universe behind.
–“A”, Sara Vilkomerson, Entertainment Weekly
The Burning Questions: What does grown-up love really look like? What choices and trade-offs do we make?…What’s most notable is the way these characters grow and move on, not always getting exactly what they want, but finding enough of what they need.
–Dawn Raffel, Oprah’s Book-Club Suggestions
The way people misapprehend each other; the way they steel themselves to wound or betray; their awkward, touching efforts to reunite, if only briefly: These are some of the dynamics Gornick explores in her achingly eloquent collection of linked stories. Discovering what binds—and divides—these characters is one of this volume’s many rewards.
–Cathleen Medwick, More, June 2015
Gornick’s collection creates a forensic puzzle, inviting readers to assemble the police-room board of photos and thumbtacks and connective threads…Each story opens itself entirely, unfolds slowly, attending to itself and the characters it inhabits, absorbing the reader in the narrative itself…Gornick handles her characters the way a therapist treats her patients–with empathy and insight. She studies their wounds and calamity, then nudges them out of harm’s way.
–Cecily Sailer, The Dallas Morning News
Gornick’s fiction is not only worth reading, but worth studying too. You can learn a lot about writing from her and even more about life.
–Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, The Huffington Post
Gornick’s terrific new novel-in-stories…is a seriously engaging book—one filled with fleshed-out, dynamic characters who pass in and out of each other’s lives over the course of decades…[She] has a gift for capturing disparate voices and moods and threading them together into an intelligent, sometimes fraught tapestry.”
–Holly Smith, Washington Independent Review of Books
Readers will find themselves identifying with the struggling men and women in this cleverly linked collection of short stories…
–Carol Memmott, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Summer Books: 10 Novels Not to Miss, June 6, 2015
Lisa Gornick’s unblinkingly downbeat, marvelous Louisa Meets Bear forms…a design so finely and knottily thought out that unravling it is both a pleasure and a sadness.
–Celia McGee, The Center for Fiction, Junior Edition: New Books for Younger Readers
In Lisa Gornick’s third novel, Louisa Meets Bear, she takes a poignant trip through the psyche of numerous characters whose lives interconnect in some way, shape or form . . . What is great about this novel is that each chapter can be read as an individual story, but because of the entwining narratives, it comes together to create one cohesive piece . . . With her style of creating poignant relationships and journeys, and her effortless characterization, Louisa Meets Bear is a novel in which it’s all about the path that takes you to the end, not the end itself.
–Alexis Helms, The Roanoke Times
Gornick is able to weave in themes of desire, class,death and family for a truly striking read.
—The Riveter Magazine, Books to Read Summer 2015
A compassionate and infinite understanding of the human condition of loss…
Gornick describes all of the dark spaces and the buried secrets within the psyche of each character, allowing them slowly to come to light as she delineates the tangled webs woven among even the most casual acquaintances. Those who enjoy literary novels of psychological portent will relish this title.
Each of these exquisitely crafted stories is a stand-along gem; read together, characters interlock in ways that continuously surprise. Gornick infuses this narrative of love, loss, and yearning with a nuanced complexity that perhaps only a former psychotherapist could bring to her writing. The lifelong tension that binds Louisa and Bear, lovers who first meet in college but have chosen different paths resolves—or does not resolve at all—in such a quietly affecting manner that one may need a moment of quiet reflection—or a box of Kleenex—after turning the final page.
–Susan Coll, “Staff Pick,” Politics & Prose Bookstore
Louisa meets Bear, and the lucky reader of this wonderful collection of linked stories meets an unforgettable group of characters who are connected to each other in ways that surprise and delight. Lisa Gornick has a gift for the telling moment and has achieved something lovely and unusual with this captivating book.
–Ann Packer, author of The Children’s Crusade and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
Lisa Gornick’s new book is a kind of cat’s cradle narrative, a series of intricate, beautifully-made stories linking a group of people through time and place. Gornick has a wonderfully observant eye and a deeply compassionate heart, and the book radiates with energy, intelligence and empathy.
–Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta and Cost
Lisa Gornick detonates moments of loss, lust, and love in Louisa Meets Bear. Readers will marvel at the smoke rising from these explosive pages, as fireworks set off in one character’s bedroom smolder on another’s roof. A deeply felt book, written with tremendous insight and grace.
–Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive! and The Bowl is Already Broken
In her intelligent, masterful stories of love and family, Lisa Gornick writes with an intensity and intimacy about women and men whose lives prove just as complex and contradictory, as passionate and as real as our own. A lovely, convincing, and moving collection.
–Michelle Huneven, author of Blame and Off Course
“Best” Lists & Awards
Finalist The 2016 Paterson Fiction Prize
The Story Prize Long List for Collections Published in 2015
Superbly drawn characters populate this collection of related stories in which life’s small moments accumulate into a large, visceral tapestry.
—Washington Independent Review of Books, 13 Best Novels of the Year
Gornick, a former psychotherapist, delves deeply into the emotional repercussions of the connections we make throughout our lifetimes. Louisa meets Bear in 1975, when they are undergraduates at Princeton. He’s a jock, on scholarship. “Working class boy comes to the country club,” he tells her. She’s from San Francisco, where her father is a biomedical scientist. They are on again, off again, for years, star-crossed: “I can imagine many endings to our story”, she says. Gornick’s exquisite, intricately woven novel spans a half century. The surprising conclusion reminds us how often the gifts in life grow from the “soil of sadness”.
–Jane Ciabattari, BBC, 2015’s Best Beach Reads
Enter, a new discovery by me, Lisa Gornick, author of the linked story collection, Louisa Meets Bear. While Louisa Meets Bear compels as both parts of a whole and a sum of all its parts, the book deserves a full-blown review of its own.
–Jodi Paloni, The Quivering Pen, 2015 Best of the Shorts,
Searching for a solid book of short stories? Search no more. This beautifully written collection tells tales of the Ivy League that you can easily lose yourself in.
–Alisa Swidler, Town& Country, THE A LIST, July 23, 2015
In Louisa Meets Bear, . . . Gornick puts her brains (and considerable writing chops) on full display. [Her] therapist’s compassion and intuition is especially evident in these 10 stories… Whether it’s the pregnant daughter and her distant mother in ‘Instructions to Participant,’ or that same adopted child traveling through Italy with her parents in ‘Misto,’ you’ll find a kindred soul with whom you can connect in Louisa Meets Bear.
–Caroline Goldstein, Bustle, Best Books That Are the Perfect Summer Escape
Lisa Gornick is rapidly staking a claim to being one of our best writers. With her last novel, Tinderbox (2013), and now this collection of linked stories, she has served notice that she is a writer of consequence…”Priest Pond”…is the best story Alice Munro never wrote. You should not hesitate to experience the intellectual and emotional satisfaction that can be found in her writing.
–Bill Wolfe, ReadHerLikeAnOpenBook, My Favorite Books of 2015