John Eidswick - The peaceful life of 17th century New England Puritan farmer Adam Green is ripped apart when he finds a television set in the woods

John Eidswick, The Language of Bears, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2017. 
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The peaceful life of 17th century New England Puritan farmer Adam Green is ripped apart when he finds a television set in the woods. His discovery enables evil madman animal-skinner and proto-industrialist Obadiah Broke to have Adam arrested for witchcraft and steal the magical black water (oil, that is) seeping onto Adam’s farm. A hairsbreadth escape from the pillory enables the young farmer to discover the incredible truth behind the strange, Edenic land he lives in. Now it is up to Adam, a hunted fugitive, to find a way to defeat the monstrous forces threatening his home and the rest of the world. There is no hope unless he can learn…the language of bears.

The Language of Bears tells the connected stories of siblings Adam Green, a good-hearted but slightly paranoid young corn farmer and his rebellious 7-year-old sister Daisy Green. They live in a mysterious land called Arcadia, which seems like the bucolic and tranquil pre-industrial New England inhabited by the first Puritans settlers in the 1700s. Some qualities of Arcadia suggest not all is as it seems: a tree that grows giant apples, monstrous twenty-foot tall bears, an absolute lack of disease and crime.
Life for Adam and Daisy is torn asunder when Adam finds a mysterious box in the woods (the reader recognizes it as a television set) with a talking, disembodied head inside. The head tells him, inexlicably, “dry your beans.” Adam runs screaming from the forest to get help, but the television has vanished when he brings others to look at it. Through a series of heartbreaking (but sometimes darkly funny) occurances, the discovery of the TV leads to Adam’s arrest and death sentence for witchcraft. While Adam’s troubles are unfolding, precocious Daisy Green, absolutely intolerant of injustice and bullshit from grownups, becomes furious with the adults in her life who won’t tell her what is going on with her brother. She also grows steadily more incensed at being constantly told that, because she is a girl, she must act “ladylike.” She runs away with her best friend and gets into a harrowing adventure in the caves under Arcadia, where she makes a shocking discovery.
All of these events appear connected to the machinations of child-abusing, mega-wealthy pig rancher Obadiah Broke, who has become horribly deformed and mentally unstable because of an accident caused by making an experimental tanning fluid by mixing apple juice with pig brains.
The accusations of witchcraft against Adam cause a schism in the community. Some of the citizens side with insecure mayor William Gladford in arguing against Adam’s guilt and against the unscientific notion of witchcraft altogether, and some follow dour Puritan reverend Calvin Branch, the community’s spiritual leader, who sees Adam’s vision of the television as a sign of an impending apocalypse and a justification to conspire with Obadiah Broke to overthrow Mayor Gladford and bring back the ancient, viciously draconian Sabbatical Laws (whose legal punishments include flogging and burning at the stake) and make Arcadia great again.
A lot of other beguiling elements abide in the book. A caged goddess, talking animals, etc.
Not exactly airport fiction.
I’m probably being excessively optimistic, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, despite its unconventional nature, my novel potentially could be enjoyed by readers ranging from ordinary folks who like an old-fashioned-adventure-with-a-moral story (think lovers of the Little House on the Prairie books) to a very different kind of reader, fans of authors of experimental novels, like David Foster Wallace (I’m thinking of Infinite Jest in particular). Or perhaps more appropriately, a comic modernist novel like Catch-22. Come to think of it, an accurate elevator pitch for my novel would be:
Little House on the Prairie meets Catch-22.

"In Eidswick's debut novel, Adam Green lives in Arcadia, an evolved, peaceful version of Puritan New England, which has somehow sprouted in an alternate reality. Disease-free and socialistic, it is a realm filled with fantastic and symbolic emblems, such as pumpkin-sized apples, magic bread, 20-foot-long bears, talking pigs, lots of redheads, and cooperative mice. Green's troubles begin when he finds a television (a box with a head in it that speaks to him) in the woods. Combined with his family history, this discovery leads to a charge of witchcraft against him. The accusation is championed by Obadiah Broke, the richest man in town, and the Rev. Calvin Mathers Cotton Makepeace Branch, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who believes sin has taken over and that pillories should be reinstated. Broke, who was disfigured and driven mad by an accident with tanning chemicals seven years earlier, is actually behind the TV incident. He seems to know a great deal about life in the other reality, including the value of oil, which he believes lies under Green's land. The book is a smart, literate, odd, and skillfully written tour de force filled with biblical, mythical, and cultural allusions. Peopled with a cast of wonderfully quirky characters, the plot takes a number of surprising and singular twists while referencing everything from Greek mythology and King Arthur to A.A. Milne's gloomy donkey, Eeyore. In addition, Eidswick displays a brilliant command of dialogue, and his prose is poetic and filled with striking imagery: "The night sky was spotted with clouds, luminous bruises spread over the stars." Strange, funny, and poignant, the story deftly wields this eccentric parable to examine a variety of philosophical, religious, and existential questions, such as the dichotomy between deeming the world as evil and worthy of punishment versus viewing life as a demonstration of God's goodness. Witty, serious, and original, this stunning tale should attract anyone who delights in an intellectually stimulating read." - Kirkus Reviews
"THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is that rare thing: a fantasy that introduces an entirely unique world that also reads as fully real. The novel takes place in a town called Arcadia, nestled in a peaceful valley but surrounded by woods filled with dangerous wild animals. The town's inhabitants are descended from a group of early Puritan settlers who journeyed to the valley through the Forbidden Forest and now live a simple, isolated existence and follow a slightly more relaxed version of their ancestor's moral code. The mix of historical and fantastical detail creates an uncanny mood that keeps you turning pages as the novel invites you to uncover its many mysteries. 
 "THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS succeeds in part because of Eidswick's prose. He writes with a slightly old-fashioned cadence and vocabulary that match the small town world of farmers and shopkeepers he's created. One character, for example, is "perched on the splintery riding board of his old cart, his small body wobbling with the pocks of the trail." The detail of his descriptions turn Arcadia into a place you can see, hear, and feel along with the characters; the unique voice of his prose gives you the impression you are reading about it specifically as these characters would tell it.
The other reason the novel works so well is that the characters themselves are so memorable. Eidswick assembles a large cast, from self-doubting, world-shy Adam to Daisy, to his fearlessly questioning younger sister, to Reverend Calvin Branch, desperate to return the town to the piousness his father inspired, to Wandabella Shrenker, the gossipy shopkeeper with a penchant for designing garish dresses and cooking mice into biscuits. Eidswick gives us glimpses into the heads of most of his characters, making the town feel truly alive with fully realized human beings. Even characters who do bad things are given a chance to explain themselves through internal monologue so that his imagined world comes across as complex and vivid as our own.
The combination of world-building, character development, and expert plotting makes for a compelling yarn, but THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is also more than that. It's a novel with something to say. By drawing on Puritan America for inspiration, Eidswick is able to examine both the harmful legacies the United States has inherited from that past, as well as the things of value it has cast aside. Even though it's set in an imagined town isolated in time and space, THE LANGUAGE OF BEARS is full of lessons for the present day. After reading BOOK ONE: THE POLYPS OF CHRIST, you'll anxiously await whatever intrigue and wisdom Eidswick has planned for BOOK TWO."  -IndieReader 
"It hits almost every single one of my wants when it comes to a fiction book and then some." - MI Book Reviews
"This book is like reading a fairy tale after consuming a box of magic mushrooms...the surprise hit of the year. I loved it!" - Two Bald Mages
"The Language of Bears is delightfully original and satisfyingly unpredictable: highly recommended reading not for those who look for superficial action, but for readers who delight in finding an original voice that excels in alternative history and unique perspectives." - D. Donovan

“The peaceful life of 17th century New England Puritan farmer Adam Green is ripped apart when he finds a television set in the woods. Horrifically deformed animal skinner Obadiah Broke, driven insane by an accident with tanning chemicals, becomes fixated on obtaining the malodorous black water seeping onto Adam’s property. A coup d’etat instigated by Obadiah leads to a death sentence for Adam for witchcraft. A hairsbreadth escape from the pillory enables the young farmer to discover the incredible truth behind the peculiar land he lives in. Now it is up to Adam, a hunted fugitive reviled by all, to find a way to defeat the monstrous forces threatening his home and the rest of the world. There is no hope unless he can learn…the language of bears.
The Language of Bears is a strange, comic literary fantasy in whose shocking outcome a river of oil, magic bread, a geyser of fire, giant apples, and talking pigs figure prominently.”
I got an ARC in return for an honest review from the author.
The author warned me that the book would be weird, but I dismissed that. I was in a weird mood and figured that nothing Eidswick could throw at me would get me out of the reading funk I have been in. I had no desire to read anything. I had to force myself to read this book, but within a few pages I was realizing that I was gifted something gorgeous. My mood shifted from dreading the idea of reading to actively seeking out time to read. This is a powerful book.
The writing of the book is unbelievably pretty, especially for a first book. The descriptions are perfect, there is a distinct voice, there are no grammatical errors that I noticed. There was a dialect to the characters that was consistent and believable.  The characters, even when they were evil, were not one dimensional. It has been so long since I read a good villain. One that had me so disgusted with their behavior, but so conflicted because of the reasons they became the way they were. George is not a character I will forget any time soon. He was complex and wonderful. He seemed pretty simple, but the longer the story goes on the more complex everyone gets. The epilogue makes everything even more complex, I won’t give it away, but it helped explain to me why George was the way he was.
There were such rich characters and history that Fannie Flagg was called to mind. Though Flagg would have to be drunk to come up with this story, she would have to lose all filter and allow her characters to go into a very dark place. This book had the gentle lull of a hometown novel, but then BAM witches. Now, I hate stories about witches, wizards, magic, all of that good stuff. I find them boring and predictable. This story was anything but boring and predictable. There was not a single point in the story that I wanted to put it down. I had to force myself to read slower, savor the book. Everything I love about Flagg is present in this book: the small town characters, the niceness of the main character that is nice to a fault usually, and the humor. Eidswick added in the bizarre and the dark. This book is exactly the book for me. It hits almost every single one of my wants when it comes to a fiction book and then some. Who knew I needed pig brains and apple juice to be happy?
I have exactly one bad thing to say about this book and author. One. Ready? There is only one book out. I want more. The plot and the characters were wrapped up beautifully, no loose ends. I just want to keep reading though. The beautiful words, the strange land, everything just felt so perfect. I can’t wait for more from Eidswick. -

When Adam Green stumbles across a mysterious box containing a talking head, he sets into motion a chain of events that will shake his world to its foundations.
Eidswick’s The Language of Bears follows young Adam Green, who lost his parents seven years previous when they decided to walk into the dangerous forest and never came out. Rational people said they must have been eaten by the gigantic bears that roam the forest. The more gullible claim they were witches and that they had been seen in company of said bears instead. When Adam comes barreling out of the forest one day, yelling about finding a talking head in a box, people think he’s succumbing to the same witchy affliction, especially because no box or talking head are to be found.
This sets gossip to flying and garners Adam an offer of buying his property by Obadiah Broke, so Adam needn’t live next to ghosts. Adam declines the offer, and the mayor sets to work trying to nip the witch talk in the bud. But when three people come up missing, and their bloody clothes are found next to Adam’s house, the townsfolk are ready to burn him at the stake. A coup by the Brokes puts Obadiah’s son, George, in the mayor’s seat. Once there, George reinstitutes the Sabbatical Laws and takes Adam into custody in order to execute him. But there’s more at play here than meets the eye. What secrets are the Brokes hiding, and why will they use any excuse at all to get Adam’s land?
This was a very interesting story. About 27% into it, my suspicions grew about the story’s reveal, with an eye to M Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Things didn’t play out quite the way I’d predicted, but pretty close. There is definitely a correlation here, be it intentional or unintentional, between Obadiah & Calvin with Rump and the US Republican party wanting to go back to archaic backwards thinking and between Gladford & Doc representing more progressive change (even with Obadiah’s hidden agenda). Obadiah/George’s goal to “make Arcadia great again” only reinforced the similarities. Double ugh, just because I so greatly dislike Rump. Also, Calvin’s group is the one disparaging of women, believing that “the Lord” gave the most “intelligence and power to the one with the most trouble keeping regular church attendance.” Triple ugh. The author clearly doesn’t support those ideas, seeming more in favor of rational thinking and useful progress.
I adored Daisy and Hildegard, more than any of the other characters. These two girls kick ass. They both really gain a measure of maturity and self-reliance, and I felt they were more dynamic and compelling characters than most of the others.
There were times when the story felt a bit convoluted. It’s a good story, but it can certainly use some clean up. It needs a good proofing/spellcheck. There are places where the gender of a character changes, or the name changes to a person not in the scene at all. There’s one place where a character enters a room and sits on the bed, then flounces onto the bed. There are times the characters use more modern words, like hombres, though they are recent descendants of the Puritans. A little polish, and this could be an excellent story. I look forward to seeing Eidswick grow as a writer. -

It has been seven years since Adam Green lost his parents, who ventured into the forest and never came back. There has been a lot of speculation regarding what happened to them. But now, Adam takes the bold step to go into the forest, and what he discovers will change not only the course of his life but the entire town, for who could believe it when he says he found a box with a talking head.
The villagers almost take him for a lunatic, but strange things start happening, including an unusual offer to buy his house, the dead found close to his property and his subsequent incarceration. Can he prove his innocence and win the trust of the villagers, and can he get everyone to believe in his sanity again? But what is behind the strange happenings in the small town of Arcadia? These are questions that readers find themselves asking, captivated by the life of Adam Green, the intrigue and greed of people who will stop at nothing to rob a man of his property, and weird happenings in a town nestled close to a dangerous forest.
John Eidswick’s The Language of Bears is told in a strong and engrossing voice, and the reader can’t help but be seduced by the spell of the forest. The setting is masterfully crafted, leaving readers with powerful images of a city lost in a valley and surrounded by woodlands, a place where the bears roam and where nature heaves undisturbed. The author has imagined a story that explores the depth of human nature, of greed, and wild tales. He has a gift for character, and it is interesting to notice how he builds them through well-crafted and engaging dialogues and his powerful descriptions. This well-paced story is gripping, and it will surprise readers in many different ways—one of those stories that stand out in their originality, the plot points, and tone. It was an enjoyable read! -