Jim Mayfield is a very reclusive man. In his family’s cloistered inn in Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, he spends his retirement from NASA whittling rocking chairs and hiding from the world. His isolated life, however, begins to drastically change when his sister, a social worker named Mallory, brings over an orphaned girl to temporarily reside in the Bear Creek Inn. This girl, Abbey, slowly but surely wins Jim’s affection. He becomes determined to do whatever it takes to adopt her as his daughter, even if that means travelling back toward the stars.

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“Maybe I could let Abbey stay here as long as she wanted. Jim settled on no certainties, but he briefly considered the thought.”

The Astronaut from Bear Creek is the second novel by Nick Allen Brown and it is certainly a fine piece of dramatic fiction. The story most succeeds in the presentation of Jim and Abbey’s relationship. Brown establishes how they develop an unbreakable father-daughter bond. The pacing with which this dynamic is created is flawless. Readers’ hearts will inevitably be warmed as they observe Jim overcome the social anxiety that has kept him concealed in the Bear Creek Inn for so long in order to provide for one who must similarly overcome living with a prosthetic leg. Particularly notable is an early scene where Jim leaves his inn for the first time in years just to take Abbey to an optometrist for new glasses.

In addition to Jim and Abbey, another guest comes to stay in the Bear Creek Inn named Kelley. She is the focus of an equally enthralling subplot in which she must overcome the loss of her husband and child and start a new life. Really, there are so many captivating characters in this novel that its only major drawback is that there is not enough room to give all of them a chance to equally shine. Mallory, for example, practically disappears from the middle of the book. This is odd seeing as how Mallory is such a substantial factor propelling the plot. She saved Abbey from an orphanage by finding her refuge in the Bear Creek Inn.

Despite this, The Astronaut from Bear Creek is a wonderful sophomore novel attempt by Brown. The characters are dynamic and memorable. The story will tug at readers’ heartstrings. Furthermore, the settings, from backwoods Pennsylvania to training facilities at NASA, all feel genuine and well researched, giving the book an added element of authenticity. The Astronaut from Bear Creek is close to interstellar.

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