Exit, Pursued By a Bear

I’m an English major, so all you have to say is “Shakespeare retelling” and you’ve got me sold on the book. Enter: Exit, Pursued by a Bear. So, I was of course fascinated by this retelling of Winter’s Tale, even if it is one of my least favorite Shakespeare plays. However, when I finally closed the cover for the last time, I was disappointed, and I think Shakespeare would be too.

The premise of this book hooked me from the beginning. Sexual assault is a serious issue and is often underrepresented in female heroines. Hermione Winters as a character and a survivor was fascinating, and I wanted to root for her so bad, but the author made that really difficult. For one, how do you write about something so powerful as sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy and still somehow spend 90% of the novel talking about cheerleading? I understand that cheerleading is an outlet for Hermione and that she is not the typical “victim” but this felt false and unrealistic. The author did not do due diligence to the real issue at hand, and frankly, we spent way too much time at cheer practice doing nothing but wondering about who would make what team when.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

A major issue I had with this book, not just as a pro-life individual but as a women, was the way the abortion was handled, especially in comparison to other events in the book. The abortion was odd, described very matter of factly, and then over and forgotten about. Unfortunately, facts and testimony show that this is not a realistic portrayal of events. Whether you are the most pro-choice individual in the world, whether that child was conceived through rape or not, abortion is tough. It is a serious medical procedure and it does not leave you feeling joyful afterwards.  That Hermione chose to have an abortion I understand. Many pro-life people too make the “abortion in the case of rape” exception, and it is not uncommon to hear of it relation to fictional rape stories.

However, I was absolutely livid when only a few pages later, after casually having an abortion and being totally fine with it, Hermione THROWS UP and has a panic attack after learning that Polly is interested in women. Really? Really? Your best friend’s sexuality is more traumatizing than fetal tissue being sucked out of your womb? REALLY? No. That’s ridiculous. It could probably be labeled as homophobic, but I won’t go there, and it just made me as a reader want to throw something. If every time something hard happened Hermione had a panic attack or something, this scene would make sense. But homegirl just had an abortion, and THIS is more traumatizing/revolting/panic inducing? I don’t buy it. I wasn’t even that mad about the abortion scene until it was coupled with this one.

**END OF SPOILERS**

At the end of the book, when I finally closed the cover, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. I wanted this book to be great. I wanted it to make Winter’s Tale proud and to do justice to sexual assault victims. It did neither. Hermione Winters was pretty much a self-absorbed cheerleader throughout the whole novel, and there wasn’t much tying it to the actual plot of Winter’s Tale. If you’re looking for a quick read that isn’t the worst thing in the world, grab this book. However, if you’re actually looking for a book that grapples and handles well some major issues and is a retelling that tried at all, look elsewhere.

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