Book Review: My Bison by Gaya Wisniewski (2020)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

A simple yet lovely story about grief and loss.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

The unnamed narrator of this tale is just a child when a chance meeting with a bison sparks what will become a lifelong friendship. She first encounters him in a clearing at the edge of the forest, and the fellow youngsters continue to meet there daily – sharing tentative pets, food, and stories – until it’s time for the bison to rejoin his herd in the spring. However, the two find their way back to one another every year, each growing older with the passing years. She misses “her bison” terribly when they are apart, but the thought of seeing him again keeps her going.

Until, one year, she returns to the clearing to find him gone. Gone, but not forgotten: he lives on in her memories, in the beauty of nature, and in the little dance of her heart.

My Bison is a simple yet beautiful story about love and loss, for readers of all ages. The artwork might be a little sophisticated (one might say “dreary”) for younger readers; the color palate begins with black, white and gray, and becomes more vibrant as the story (and the human-animal bond) progresses. The blues add a splash of color yet are somber enough to complement the overall tone of the story.

I had to laugh at the early reviewer who bemoaned this is as another example of “European authors romanticizing dangerous North American creatures,” when clearly the bison is meant to be a stand-in for any loved one who has passed away, human and nonhuman alike. Personally, I can’t read this without thinking of the many doggos I’ve loved and lost. I mean, geez, a bison’s lifespan is only fifteen years, and seeing as he sticks it out until the narrator is a wizened old lady, I don’t think a literal interpretation is really the point.

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