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The Bear by Claire Cameron

You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Misfortune happens. Who’s to blame?

Claire Cameron’s new book, The Bear, is narrated in the honest, raw voice of five-year-old Anna, who is camping with her parents, and younger brother, Stick, when a bear attacks their campsite. One of the last things she hears is her mom screaming.

“I hear Mom yelling and I keep my eyes closed. Dreams aren’t real. I know that because my momma doesn’t yell. She has a soft voice that looks like a lily and tastes like sugar cookies at Christmas when you don’t put the sprinkles on.”

“Mom doesn’t yell about cookies and she doesn’t yell when I spill my glue on the carpet even though the glue was brand new and it was all gone. She says she only will yell if I am about to get hit by a bus.”

And so the haunting tale of The Bear begins. Anna, or “Nana” as her brother lovingly calls her (mostly because he can’t pronounce certain vowels properly) recounts the story of the attack and takes us on her journey. Faced with the terrifying responsibility of trying to figure out what happened and what to do, Anna acts like any five-year-old would. She is confused; she is upset at her dad; and at times she is irritated with the responsibility of looking after her baby brother, who poops and pees whenever he feels like it.
“He looks at the pee and it’s like he doesn’t even think he put it there. He is making me do everything and just sits like a stump and then he sticks out one finger like he is going to touch it. I almost tell him no but then I don’t care.”

“I have to have every idea as if I’m the momma.”

The narrative voice of Anna is the crux that makes this story so authentic. It is so innocent, so pure, so raw. As adults, we have tools and past experiences in place to guide our decisions when faced with adversity. But, what survival strategies and instincts does a five-year old have? Does she stay at the camp? Does she stay hidden in the Coleman? Which berries are poisonous to eat? She and Stick set out on the canoe…but only because she’s told to. She finds it a struggle to paddle. She gets to the other island. Then what? Should she wait for her mom? She’s always been told that if she gets lost, she should make her way to her home. But when you’re in the middle of Algonquin Park, which way is home? How do you get home?
“I need to be good and make us four…‘Come on.’ I wave at Stick and start to walk the pathway … At the end should be the cottage and I get Momma and the boat and we go to Toronto and find our family will be four.I walk and I want to go fast because Toronto is along way home.”

With the simple premise, “How will they survive?” Claire Cameron keeps you hanging on to The Bear’s innocent adventure that takes place in Algonquin Provincial Park, just four hours north of Toronto. The story was inspired by a real life 1991 bear attack in the same park.

Published in Canada by Doubleday Canada,
a division of Random House Canada Limited,
a Penguin Random House Company

Review by @ShilpaRaikar
4.5/5 Sukasa Stars