"My first memory from the summer of 1976 should have been the sound of a school bell ringing like freedom or the sun on my face as I jumped onto my dirt bike. Instead, my earliest recollection from that June was of a Thursday night spent in a neighborhood pub."
Daedalus Stephen O'Neill strives to hold on to his childhood and protect his younger brother Demian from an impetuous mother, her unpredictable boyfriend, and their menacing neighbor. Without proper adult supervision, struggling to navigate a Berkeley still tethered to the ideals and lifestyles of the sixties, they are thrust into an unrestrained world of drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity. From Telegraph Avenue and People's Park to the streets of Oakland and the debauched house parties of the era, the two brothers search for safety from the surrounding chaos.
An affecting story of heartbreak and triumph, The Bear Who Broke the World explores the illusion of youthful innocence through the prism of a boy propelled by circumstances to become a man.
"The retrospective nature of looking back, this grappling with the intangibility of memory, is the center of gravity in Justin McFarr’s debut novel, The Bear Who Broke the World. The reader is always reminded how strange childhood is, how unsettling the world of adults can be when seen through the eyes of someone gaining a true awareness of the ways things really are ... This book’s one, true strength is McFarr’s clarity of vision ... This is a book that not only knows what it wants to be, but what it should be."
- The East Bay Review
"A tender, profoundly moving account of love and abandonment, loyalty and deception. Justin McFarr's debut novel is at once a heartwarming ode to brotherly love and filial attachment, and a heartbreaking tale of the small and large devastations inflicted upon the young."
- Gina B. Nahai, author of Cry of the Peacock and The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.
“The Bear Who Broke the World is a layered portrait of a family in crisis and a moving meditation on the perils of growing up. In his tender and compassionate debut novel, Justin McFarr conjures a vivid Northern California setting and introduces a complex young hero I couldn't stop rooting for.”
- Lindsey Lee Johnson, author of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
“The Bear Who Broke the World is an incredibly vivid and emotionally real depiction of two brothers forced to grow up too fast. I wanted to reach into the pages and give Stevie and Demian a big hug.”
- Lisa Klink, TV writer and co-author of All In