The black dog is not scratching. He goes back to his sniffing and huffing and then he starts cracking his bone. Stick and I are huddled tight. . . . It is dark and no Daddy or Mommy and after a while I watch the lids of my eyes close down like jaws.
Told from the point of view of a six-year-old child, The Bear is the story of Anna and her little brother, Stick–two young children forced to fend for themselves in Algonquin Park after a black bear attacks their parents. A gripping and mesmerizing exploration of the child psyche, this is a survival story unlike any other, one that asks what it takes to survive in the wilderness and what happens when predation comes from within.
That moment when you’re reading a book and you think Wow, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read! — it happened only 18 pages into The Bear by Claire Cameron. When I interned at Random House last April, I remember binding a fresh manuscript of The Bear, reading snippets of the pages as I flipped through them. I knew almost a year ago that I had to get my hands on this book. The scattered thoughts of six-year-old Anna are painted beautifully. You understand her mind, you feel her fears, and you remember what it’s like to be a child. Claire Cameron artfully throws you into the mind of a child, it is complex and simple and stunning.
“When Momma gets mad she doesn’t yell. She looks at me and lets the sad drip up from her heart through her veins and into her eyes. Her eyes send the sad into my eyes and then it drips back down into my heart and makes it feel like a ball.”
I’ll admit that once in a while I had a hard time following little Anna’s thoughts, but that’s kind of the point. Children don’t think like adults but they are just as brave, if not more so. Anna is the bravest character I have ever encountered. Even through all of her hunger, all of her questions, and all of her fears, she was determined to save her brother and to be a good girl for her parents.
The Bear gave me severe anxiety. It held me captive. I was drawn to Anna’s understanding (or lack thereof) of what happened to her parents. My heart ached and my stomach fell to the floor when Anna described the sounds that she hears from inside Coleman (the cooler her father put her and her brother in during the bear attack). I began to sweat when Anna and Stick got out Coleman and were surrounded by “mess”. Whenever she spoke of her family being a group of four not just two or one, my eyes filled with tears. Their journey of survival will leave you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend this moving book — it’s on sale today!
Disclosure: I chose The Bear from a list of books provided by Random House of Canada. A copy was sent to me in return for an honest review.
Photo Credit and Synopsis: Random House of Canada
Quote from page 13 of The Bear