Filling the Gap in My Shelves

A while back, I wrote a post about the gap in my shelves, the book I’d lost but never quite forgotten.

The book was a favorite of mine when I was in my young teens. I read it over and over again, very nearly memorized my favorite parts, and loved it with all the devotion of an obsessive young reader.

Unfortunately, I loved it to death.

It was already a very old book. My mother bought our books at library sales and thrift stores, and when they came to us they were dog-eared and faded. Covers got torn, end pages disappeared into the trash, and eventually, the books themselves did too. With multiple siblings and quite a few avid readers in the family, it happened fairly often. Books were used, loved dearly, and replaced. New copies appeared to replace the old, and we kept reading them.

Only this one didn’t get replaced.

It simply—disappeared.

I looked for it for months. Scoured the bookshelves from top to bottom. The book had lost its cover quite a long time before it disappeared for good, and—being thirteen—I had never paid a great amount of attention to the title or the author.

I regretted that later.

And so, it faded out of my life. I left a gap in my shelves for it, but never really expected to see it again.

Until a week ago.

On a whim, I typed in a few random keywords into Google and went on a search for my missing book. I had done this before, the only result being an overwhelming realization that there are millions of books in the world. The likelihood of finding one specific book without a title or author name was very impossible. I knew it was about a grizzly, of course, but it had been so long that I couldn’t even remember his name. Ten years is a long time, right?

Or, it was until I saw the name of the grizzly in one of the links.

Then ten years was nothing, and everything about it fit. It was like meeting an old friend. I don’t often cry over books (just kidding, I totally do), but this made me tear up. It was like getting a glimpse of little thirteen-year-old Abigail, with my funny round glasses and chubby cheeks and a library card that never left my side. Despite a total book-buying ban which I wasn’t following anyway, I knew I had to buy it.

Amazon yielded . . . nothing. The book—which I now know is called The Biography of a Grizzly, by Ernest Thompson Seton—was published in 1900, and was so out of print that there were actual self-published copies available, complete with shiny plastic covers and badly photocopied pages.

Not what I wanted.

So I went looking through eBay. Thankfully, eBay almost always yields results, and it did this time too. Most of the copies were wildly expensive, after all, it is out of print, but I managed to find a decent copy for a reasonable price.

I was ecstatic.

When it finally arrived at my house, I read it in one sitting. The illustrations, the story, even the wording was so familiar that it was like stepping back in time. The story of a grizzly named Wahb and his life as an orphaned cub in the Rimrock Mountains was exactly how I remembered it. His wanderings and struggles as he tangled with wildcats, coyotes, and other bears was beautifully interspersed with the pleasures of a bear’s life—whether that be digging roots in the lush meadows or searching for grubs in the shale mountains. Wahb had many enemies, and the story of his lonely, melancholy wanderings struck a chord with me when I was a young teen.

Reading it now felt like a journey back in time. Thank goodness I wasn’t thirteen again, but I am so grateful to have found this treasure from my childhood. At last, the gap in my shelves is filled, and that piece of my reading history isn’t missing anymore.


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