Strange Horizons, February 12, 2018
Reviewed by Christos Antonaros
In the short story “On the Occasion of A Burial of Ernest Zach Ulrich” by Mary Kuryla, Nanny gives E. Z. (Ernest Zach) Ulrich’s eulogy by choosing to narrate the story of a day he turned into a bear. During that day, E. Z. discovers a mother and her daughter who are staying in a cabin by a frozen lake. After a tragic accident, the mother drowns in the frozen lake and E. Z. storms into the cabin where he spends time with the girl.
During E. Z.’s stays in the cabin, I wondered if his humanity kept him from hurting the girl, or some deeper instinct coming from the nature of the bear. Although the scenery in the forest and the frozen lake is described in detail, the rest of the information given to us about the world in which Nanny and her audience live are vague. The lack of the protagonist’s goal and the ease with which he overcomes obstacles make our read finish quickly but without an understanding of the author’s ultimate purpose.