I finally picked up this book after hearing so much about it over the past couple of weeks and I’m glad I did. It was a riveting read and I appreciate the style of writing, even though it tested me a few times.
The Bear is told from 5 (almost 6!) year old Anna’s perspective. Her family had been camping at Algonquin Park when a bear attacked their campsite and the story follows her and her brother as they deal with the aftermath.
I found myself feeling frustrated during parts of the book. I felt, at times, that the story wasn’t moving quickly enough and Anna often went on tangents when describing her situation and feelings. However, after thinking about it more it made sense – Anna is five. Of course she’s going to be a little disorganized and scattered. She’s also dealing with a very unique and difficult situation, so even though the narrative bothered me at times, I knew that it was well done. Wouldn’t you get a little bit frustrated if you had to listen to a five year-old tell a story for over 10 hours? For that, I applaud Claire Cameron for writing a voice that so closely mirrors a real child’s and do not fault her for the occasional frustration I felt when reading The Bear. Another part of Anna’s narrative that felt really poignant was her habit of counting family members. When she’s with her family, she thinks “We are four.” When she gets separated from the group she says “I am one.” I’m not sure if every child does this but I definitely identified with that; I had the same habit as a child and I had forgotten about it until reading this book.
The last thing I want to comment on is the book’s ending. I won’t spoil anything but I will say that it is one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It moved me in ways I didn’t expect and it tied the book together perfectly. Hats off to Cameron!
Verdict: A very strong book with really effective and spot-on narrative. Great ending.
Read if: You enjoy reading books that experiment with child narrators, a good adventure story, and/or stories based on real life events.