'Emory's Gift,' a Boundary County must read
January 8, 2013
Samuel Coleridge said way back in 1817 that if a
writer could infuse a "human interest and a
semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the
reader would suspend judgment concerning the
implausibility of the narrative.
Said easier, a good work of fiction can make the
reader forget all they know, for the moment, and
fall into the tale the writer conveys.
a book in the Boundary County Library, “Emory’s
Gift,” signed by the author, that does just
It’s the joy of fiction, but the bane of all but
the best writers.
Especially when the fiction is set directly in a
place familiar to some. A place like Boundary
County, Idaho, featuring a town that’s never
been but places we all know.
W. Bruce Cameron is an acclaimed author now
living in Los Angeles whose book. “A Dog’s
Purpose: A Novel for Humans,” published in 2010,
has now spent 48 weeks on the New York Times
best seller list. An earlier book, “8 Simple
Rules for Dating My Daughter,” became the basis
for the ABC comedy, “8 Simple Rules,” starring
John Ritter, James Garner and David Spade, which
aired from 2002 to 2005 and can now be seen on
The Disney Channel.
He began developing the concept for “Emory’s
Gift” while “A Dog’s Purpose” was still in
galleys, and to flesh out the story about a
young boy and a very special bear, he needed two
things for the setting; a time when grizzly
bears were rare and hard to find but were still
being hunted when and if they appeared, and a
place where such an appearance would be
“Not many places would qualify,” he said.
He’d earlier spent some time with a cousin who
lives in Coeur d’Alene, and spent time on Priest
Lake, so he had an idea of what North Idaho was
like. He’d met a young woman in California who
shared the same eye doctor and learned that her
parents, Jim and Lisa Nash, were from Bonners
Cameron and friend.
Lisa was happy to tell him all about the area,
and Boundary County, he said, soon became the
only choice for place.
He chose 1974, just before grizzly bears were
listed as endangered, as the time.
Lisa became his tour guide when he visited
Boundary County, introducing him to people who
told him more about living here in all four
seasons, and introduced him to Dr. Marty Becker,
who would write the forward to “A Dog’s
You won’t recognize the small town west of the
Selkirks where then 13-year-old Charlie grew up,
where he lost his mother to cancer and where the
tale begins, and in the beginning, that won’t
By the time you recognize that some things don’t
really fit, you’re captured by Charlie’s
struggle to come to terms with his grief, to
regain his father, trapped in his grief, and to
cope with the angst of being a teenager.
By the time you begin to see the discrepancies
wrought by Cameron’s imagination, you’ve
completely suspended judgment concerning the
implausibility of the narrative and only want to
read on, as Charlie meets Emory, who, as
mentioned, is a rather special grizzly bear.
The story carries you from 1974 to present day,
and back in time to the Missoula Floods and the
Civil War, melding human interest and just
enough truth to keep you turning pages long
And in the end, even many the characters you’ll
meet along the way come to question whether the
events they played a part in were real or just a
boy’s vivid imagination. But the paint on the
wall attests to the truth of the tale … doesn’t
“I enjoyed the time I spent there meeting and
talking to people,” Cameron said. “It’s
beautiful, rugged country and the story wouldn’t
have worked anywhere else. It’s a book I’m proud
of. The people I’ve talked to from there who’ve
read the novel seem surprised, but they usually
appreciate the story, and it takes a forgiving
person to accept fiction about the real place
where they grew up.”
The fact that the book came out at a time when
grizzly bears were much in the news here is
coincidental and intriguing, he said.
“While I tried to keep Emory as true to a real
grizzly as the story allowed,” he said, “this
isn’t a story about bears.”
He says that, much to his regret, he doesn’t get
up here but rarely; his work keeps him
exceedingly busy. After “Emory’s Gift,” he wrote
a third novel in the series, “A Dog’s Journey:
Another Novel for Humans,” which was published
He and his wife, Cathryn Michon, have written
two movies, “Cook Off” and “40 Happens,” and
another novel, “The Dogs of Christmas,” will be
in bookstores this fall.
You can read more about the author, order his
books and enter W. Bruce Cameron's Dog of the
Week contest on his official website,
Teachers can also get a study guide to using
“Emory’s Gift” to spark imaginations in the
classroom, designed by educators for junior
high, high school and advanced classes.
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