The Bigfoot Files
- By Lindsay Eagar
- Candlewick Press
- 384 pp.
- Reviewed by Theresa Graham
- December 19, 2018
This compulsively readable story plumbs the depths of a middle-schooler’s evolving relationship with her mother — and a Sasquatch.
Lindsay Eagar’s The Bigfoot Files brims with whimsically beautiful prose. This delightful, carefully crafted blend of realistic fiction and fantasy offers a unique and compelling middle-school read loaded with juicy anecdotal information about Bigfoot and the people who pursue him.
Miranda Cho is an intelligent 12-year-old who has set high academic and extracurricular expectations for herself. She has chosen to immerse herself in school to escape the pain of her social isolation, the result of her burgeoning embarrassment about her out-of-the-norm household and mother.
Miranda is also struggling with an anxiety disorder that causes her to compulsively pluck out long, black strands of her hair when she becomes overwhelmed and wants to detach from her racing inner thoughts. Plus, she’s dealing with ongoing grief from losing her first true friend and from not being able to reconnect with her estranged father.
As if this weren’t challenging enough, Miranda has also had to take on much more responsibility than her peers because her mother, Kat, doesn’t oversee her daily school-related obligations, participate in any community activities, or manage their household needs. Kat is a cryptozoologist — obsessed with tracking monsters, namely Bigfoot — and devotes all her time to lengthy, out-of-state excursions to national parks in search of sightings.
As a young child, Miranda relished tagging along with her mother, hearing colorful monster stories, and setting out bowls of milk on her bedroom floor for the fairies each night. But now that she’s older, she is upset about missing so much school, stressed about her grades and scholastic pursuits, and frustrated that her mother seems to be oblivious to all of it.
Moreover, she has noticed that Kat has started to lose her ability to manage the house, pay the bills, and stock groceries, among other responsibilities. Miranda feels threatened by all this, and is also frustrated at her mother’s insistence that she continue missing school to accompany her on monster hunts. She is unable to focus on her homework and has started going to school very early to be able to think clearly. For Miranda, “A house full of monsters was not a place where she could think, no matter how much she tried to hide in the shadows.”
Miranda decides to convince her mother to give up on her foolish pursuit of Bigfoot, get a real job, and handle the stack of overdue bills — including several overdue mortgage payments — that she found stashed in a drawer. What if they were to lose their house? Not a thought any 12-year-old should have to be concerned with.
I was captivated by this book, thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in it, and binge-read it in two days. It is well constructed and offers a hopeful message about the painful transitions that invariably occur in parent-child relationships during the middle-school years. The novel skillfully navigates this evolving mother-daughter dynamic and provides an eventual resolution within the magical setting of an ongoing Bigfoot hunt.
The imagery of the great outdoors throughout the book is breathtaking. Author Eager writes beautifully, and her descriptions of the vast wooded settings with their myriad lush greens are among the most visceral and enchanting descriptions of that color I have ever read:
“She was aware the inadequacy of the word green, too — why divide the rainbow like this, into only six colors, when green itself deserved an entire spectrum of its own?”
The plot smoothly alternates between the frantic hunt for Bigfoot and the complex mother/daughter dynamic between Miranda and Kat. There is a lot going on at once, but the two unlikely plots eventually meld to reveal a thought-provoking and refreshing surprise ending that I didn’t expect. The realistic fiction component becomes more and more overshadowed by the fantasy component until the reader is left to wonder what is real and what is imagined.
The Bigfoot Files celebrates differences in lifestyle and demonstrates how emotionally healthy it can be to keep an open mind and maintain childlike wonder when faced with the inexplicable. Miranda experiences a true coming-of-age transformation as she realizes that things are not always as they appear within the natural world, nor within the hearts of the people closest to her, and that we all struggle with distorted perceptions sometimes.
Theresa Graham is an avid reader of all genres and resides in north Florida. She formerly worked as a technical writer and benefits specialist for Lockheed Martin, is a member of a long-term book club, and is working on a memoir.