Set along the Findhorn River in mountainous Appalachia this novel is a prequel to John Neely Davis’ The Sixth William. The valley’s residents include third generation settlers and a mysterious clan of mixed ancestry who are called Melungeons.
Geoff Rydges was born in the Australian Outback to an itinerant sheepherder and an Aborigine woman who left them shortly after the boys birth. St. James Rydges, Geoff’s father, is a petty criminal and flees to America with his young son. After a wandering voyage across the Atlantic, they land in Virginia, and travel westward, eventually settling in rural Shoals, Tennessee. Here in this rugged country, his father deserts him, and Geoff begins his journey into manhood under the tutelage of a Melungeon teacher and her aging, blind husband. Cocooned within the intertwinement of mystery, violence and racial tension is a compelling story of love.
John Adams, Lexington HS Class of 1958, Everett Horn Library, Lexington, TN
“I have never reviewed a book before and I don’t consider this a true review of John Neely Davis’ book BEAR SHADOW.
John Neely is a master storyteller. He has woven several tales together and kept us interested. It really is hard to put it down once you start. The character Geoff Rydges moves from outcast alien to full fledged citizen of Tennessee. The journey he takes is filled with both hard and soft hearted people. He takes to the soft hearted very easily. Hard living and betrayal seem to find its way to Geoff.
John Neely’s use of words that have not crossed my mind in years, like brindle, stovewood, etc. He evokes images of buildings, people and events in my own childhood that have been buried for years. This is really a man’s book, but I know women will find it interesting as well. A little bit of homespun honest romance and the trials of years of marriage.
Not just because it’s set mostly in the Tennessee hills, but it is a book that would honor all our hard working parents and grandparents who survived harsh elements and harsh people.
I hope people will grab this book and curl up some cold winter nights with it in from of them.”
5.0 out of 5 stars By Nesa DeLaGarza on December 20, 2014. Amazon.Com
–Such a wonderful story of a man and his progression through life–
Such a wonderful story of a man and his progression through life. His hardships, his revelations and his joy. His story is told in such a way as to pull you into his journey, so that you feel as though you are in his journey with him. Definitely a book to read.
5.0 out of 5 stars By Suzanne W. Brunson on December 23, 2014. Amazon.Com
There is a place in the Appalachian Mountains called Bear Shadow. The sun casts the shape of a dark bear across the turning leaves of autumn and it is one of those great beauties of nature. John Neely Davis takes this unique and stunning phenomenon, nothing more than a shadow floating on a mountainside and weaves a mountain story as true as any tale you’ve ever heard.
“A Baby Ben alarm clock sitting on the table was measuring our remaining time on this earth. Seemingly ashamed of the loud noise it was making, the clock faced the bed…’ Set in a valley in eastern Tennessee, “Bear Shadow” is pivotal to the story. It is what Davis wraps his words around for he knows these people. The reader will be intrigued and will feel at home in this story.
5.0 out of 5 stars By Sue Chilton on December 22, 2014. Amazon.Com
–A Page Turner!–
This novel is like a Russian nesting doll – you know – the kind where you open a doll to find another wooden doll inside; as one mystery is opened, another is revealed. Bear Shadow is set in the Appalachians of eastern Tennessee at the turn of the century. The book chronicles the life of Geoff Rydges, an Australian, who comes into the area as a teenager. This is a tale of adventure, romance, betrayal and just the right amount of revenge. It is a good novel, a smooth read and has something for everyone.
5.0 out of 5 stars By LoydA on December 21, 2014. Amazon.Com
–This author is a very good story teller–
After reading “The Sixth William” on Kindle, I decided that I needed a hard copy for my personal library. When I learned from a friend that John Neely Davis had written a second novel I decided to go straight to the hard copy and purchased “Bear Shadow”. Mr. Davis has a way of drawing you into a story so you feel as if you are listening to it being told first hand. Both of these novels are hard to put down. This author is a very good story teller. I hope there’s another book coming soon.
5.0 out of 5 stars By S. Ward Bell on December 23, 2014. Amazon.Com
Wonderful story by an amazing writer. I fell in love with young Geoff in the first few pages and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew where Davis was going to take me. I highly recommend this interesting coming of age story that is full of southern heart.
Last night’s wind swept the crevice clean of snow, and I had easy walking. Limbs had toppled off into the narrow ravine and there were scattered piles of leaves huddled up against the sides as if they were hiding from the relentless cold.
At first, I thought the bones were weathered sticks bleached white by age. Then I saw the skull and a distorted, fleshless hand with clinched fingers. I squatted and raked the leaves from the other bones; my breath rose in the cold air in quick little puffs and cold beads of sweat slipped down my ribs. With a stick I raked other leaves away and there were more bones and then a rusted bear trap, smashed bones still in the cold metal grasp. There I found the other hand with the fingers between the jaws of the trap. I could imagine their frantic struggle against the unrelenting steel. My stomach churned as salty water rose in my throat.
There was no cloth, no bits of leather, no buttons, nothing that evidenced that this was a human body—nothing but the bleached skull and scattered bones. A metal canteen with the cap still in place was jammed higher between the rocks, probably taken there by a strong flow of water coming down the ravine after a spring rain. I shook it and heard a rustling inside. I removed the cap, turned the canteen upside down and a piece of tightly rolled paper, fragile and brown with age and encircled by a heavy ring, slid out into my hand.