book review

Book Review: The Bear

We all know the song: If you go out in the woods today….

There are two things that I did after reading The Bear: A Novel by Claire Cameron.

1. Crossed camping off my list of things that I will ever do again.  Even if I’m forced to do so.

2. Put my brand new tent, that I was once excited about, up for sale. Because point one explains this.

This beautiful book is based on a true story of a pair of campers who were killed by a bear in Algonquin Park. The fiction aspect takes hold with the introduction of 6 year old Anna and her younger brother Alex, aka Stick, as he is affectionately referred to because of the constant state of stickiness that he finds himself in. The blend of the fact and fiction are done well and I can truly see this as an event that had unfolded in the woods in Northern Canada. Told entirely through Anna’s eyes you feel the emotions that she is incapable of understanding.

Since Anna is very young you feel the weight of the emotions.  The lack of understanding of the situation and the danger they were in.  I held my breath with the children as they were tapped inside Coleman. Coleman is a character all his own so I will not spoil his plot line by giving too much detail. I felt the pine needles under the children’s bare feet. The hot, rancid breath of the “black dog” filling the air as they struggle to breath in such a small space.

I held back tears as Anna thought her parents were mad at her, especially her daddy, and that is why they were not coming to help them. I would stay up late reading until I was finally able to have closure. The outcome of Anna and Stick weighted on my mind until I finished the book.

Bear attacks are not isolated in the wilds of Northern Canada. A quick Google search yielded many articles and even video of horrifying stories of bears attacking people. The more we enter their territory the more attacks there will be.  Then I found them, the two campers, that crept around in the back of Claire Cameron’s mind.

Raymond Jakubauskas, 32, and Carola Frehe, 48, on October 11, 1991, on Black Bates Island, Opeongo Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario, Canada.
Raymond and Carola were attacked by a black bear. They suffered blows to the head, were dragged from their campsite (which was in the process of being set up) and partially eaten. All of this horror is captured in the book.

An engaging read from start to finish.

I would recommend it as a book to be discussed with friends. If you enjoyed The Room by Emma Donoghue this book is told with the same insight and the same level of mastery.