I really like books and movies about survival and the wilderness. Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, The Edge. I love them all. That may be rather surprising to some people, because anyone who knows me knows I’d probably last all of a week on my own in the wild. I guess these books are my way of vicariously taking part in outdoor adventures, though, because I’ve always enjoyed them.
Claire Cameron’s The Bear has a narrator who must survive following a horrific attack that kills her parents. Unlike many of the heroes of survival books and movies, who tend to been teens or older, The Bear‘s main character is five (almost six) year old Anna. While on a camping trip with her parents and two year old brother, a black bear attacks and kills Anna’s parents and leaves the siblings alone in the wilderness. Anna must protect her brother from the still looming bear and find a way to get them to safety.
It was very interesting to read a book written from a five year old’s perspective. At times it was a bit confusing, because Anna’s almost stream of consciousness narration makes some details a bit difficult to follow. Then again, I would image that a five year old would not be able to fully comprehend such a tragic event and thus their thoughts on the subject would undoubtedly be a bit confusing as the try to make sense of what’s happening.
This also makes the novel a bit less graphic than one might expect. Anna glances over details that the reader can only infer are a sign of something much more gruesome. For example, at one point Anna sees the bear chewing on her father’s sneaker with “meat” in it, and thinks that her dad will not be happy that the bear is eating his shoe. It took me a minute to comprehend that line, and then I promptly freaked out a bit.
Because Anna is so young, the passage of time is also a bit unclear. For all I knew, Anna and her brother could have spent weeks out there (and to them it probably felt that way) but it was really a matter of days.
The last part of the novel is also very hard to read. Anna stops speaking after the incident and has a difficult time dealing with what has happened. Her pain is very real and is sucker punch to the heart.
The very end, however, was so beautifully written that I found myself in tears. Cameron has done an excellent job treating a tragic event with care, acknowledging that though we may try to find sense or reason in such events there often is none. The Bear is an excellent novel that I highly recommend.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5