A “refreshing” (Kirkus Reviews), unpretentious, and uplifting story about a father and son reconnecting and finding happiness in the most unlikely circumstances.
Danny’s life is falling apart. His eleven-year-old son, Will, hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier, and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. He’s behind on the rent and his landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.
After observing street performers in a local park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son being bullied by a group of older boys. Danny chases them off, and Will opens up for the first time since his mom died, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of despair?
Filled with a delightful cast of characters including Danny’s Ukrainian best friend Ivan, Bear Necessity is “a moving, sensitive story that is also very funny, and a perfect literary antidote to anxious, troubled times” (Shelf Awareness).
Gould-Bourn's promising if contrived comic debut finds Londoner Danny Malooley grieving his wife, Liz, who died in a car accident more than a year earlier. He is also distressed that his son Will, 11, who is bullied at school, has "selective mutism" and refuses to speak. Adding to his troubles, Danny loses his construction job, which prevents him from paying his angry, vicious landlord several months of back rent. Sad-sack Danny has few skills, so he comes up with a foolhardy plan to work as a dancing panda street performer. While Danny can't dance, his new "career" has one benefit: Will talks to the panda, unaware he is talking to his dad. Gould-Bourn generates humor from his clever supporting characters, including mouthy pole dancer Krystal ("Why you dressed like a skunk anyway?" she asks, after they meet on a bus). Krystal teaches Danny some dance moves, while his Ukrainian friend Ivan gets some of the best lines. The plot feels a bit flimsy, with things turning out almost too well for Danny, but Gould-Bourn pulls off sweet scenes of Danny becoming a more attentive dad. The story climaxes with a Battle of the Street Performers contest that provides some amusement, but this feel-good story about coping with grief ultimately feels too lightweight.
Wonderful book. I laughed and cried all the way through it....but laughter won.