“A Bear Came Over the Mountain,” by Alice Munro, is an admirable story about a person’s dementia and what it means in the life of a relative. Fiona, the dementia-ridden wife of Grant, enters a nursing home and, as her condition worsens, grows emotionally close to Aubrey, another patient. Coinciding with this is a near indifference to Grant—rather a comeuppance for a once adulterous husband. The bear in the title is doubtless dementia, but it must also be for Grant the presence of Aubrey.
The story has all the gravity such a fiction should possess—it has a lot to do with contingency—and Munro writes well about men and not just women. Near the end, Fiona is said to have a “sweetly shaped skull,” which suggests that someday, before very long, she will die. But she is not forsaken; Munro sympathetically spotlights marital love.
Reviews by Dean