Edith lives in a lovely house and has everything she needs -- except company. She is desperately lonely, praying every night for friends and trying to talk with the small animals who seem to be the only living things left in this deserted world. Perhaps there has been some apocalypse, some epidemic which wiped out all mammals. Edith is on the verge of going mad from isolation when finally two strange bears appear. Father and son? They do not say. Possibly Mr Bear appropriated and "adopted" Little Bear in the same manner as he quickly assumes the parental role over Edith, monitoring her behavior and controlling her activities. When the formerly-independent Edith resists Mr Bear's domination, she is punished, never more severely than on the instance in which she attempts to shed her submissive, child-like trappings and dress as an adult, putting on lipstick and highheeled shoes. Physically beaten and terrified of abandonment, she kowtows to patriarchal authority.
I did not encounter this book as a child. I think it would have disturbed me then, too, since I grew up in a large city and was aware of dangers such as kidnapping and child molestation at a very young age. As an adult I do not like
the book, but find it fascinating as a psychological artifact and a creative product. The text story is creepy enough on its own -- a little doll all alone is so desperate for friends that she lets in strangers who quickly take control of her home and life. The accompanying photos are even more revealing, intense and disturbing. They alternate between scenes of isolation and even desolation, and uneasy, claustrophobic closeness. Often the two bears seem to press themselves onto Edith from either side, touching her and pulling at her hair and clothing. Although no violence is explicit except for the infamous "spanking scene," too many of Edith and Little Bear's behavioral and personality elements correspond with those of abused children, as do Mr Bear's with those of an abuser -- obsessive control and watchfulness, thwarting of other social contacts, violent or irrational behavior coupled with assertions of love and protection, resistance to the "children" growing up.
I'll have to find more of this series and see where it goes -- even though I'm not sure I want to.