The Bear by Claire Cameron
I really thought that life would slow down a bit over the summer. What I always forget about summer, however, is how fast time flies. Why is it that winter can’t go so fast? It’s practically August and before we know it, pumpkin-flavored everything will arrive followed quickly by holiday shopping commercials.
Have I depressed you enough with my end-of-summer thoughts? Sorry if I have. Let’s focus instead on the fact that we really do have all of August left to enjoy – the dog days of summer. I hope to do a lot of things in August, spend as much time as possible outside. The weather has been pretty enjoying in New York City this summer and I’m hoping the humidity stays at bay.
Moving forward with today’s blog post, and on the topic of outdoor activities, I can tell you one thing that I 100% will not be doing this summer, and perhaps ever again. That is camping. Honestly unless it involves a cabin and not the full-on tent kind of camping, after reading Claire Cameron’s The Bear, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to go camping again. Now let me admit, it’s not like I’m a big camper or anything. The last time I went camping was before I can really remember. So this “not going camping ever again” thing isn’t a big loss. If anything, this is a credit to how wonderfully freak-out worthy, anxiety causing of a book that Claire Cameron wrote.
So let me rewind a little bit and tell you about the plot of The Bear. It’s actually a pretty simple story. A family of four goes camping in the woods. Mom, dad, 5 year-old Anna and her younger brother she calls Stick go into the woods. Anna and Stick come out of the woods. You know what happens to the parents? THEY GET EATEN BY A BEAR. If you think I just spoiled the whole book, I didn’t. I promise. You know they get attacked as prey just from reading the back. What makes The Bear so a fascinating book is how the story of the attack and Anna’s fight for her and her brother’s survival is told. The entire narrative of The Bear is from Anna’s point of view. It’s horrifying and amazing all wrapped up at once because as the reader (who I’m assuming is much older than 5 years old), progresses through the book, you have to figure out what is actually happening based on your interpretations of a child’s thoughts. Take for example (and this is why it’s horrifying), Anna doesn’t really comprehend that a bear has attacked her parents. Her and her brother were thrown into an oversized Coleman cooler and can’t really see out of it. She knows there is a big animal – she assumes its a dog. Once the dog is gone and the siblings are able to escape the Coleman, she’s walking around and sees a stick of meat that resembles something that she’d seen in her freezer. She just can’t comprehend though, why her father’s sneaker is on a stick of meat. YOU GUYS. THAT IS HER FATHER’S LEG. Sorry, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that, however I was freaking out as I read that passage in the book.
All of Anna’s thoughts and reasonings don’t always end up in horrifying moments of realization. In fact, it’s the love that she has for her brother that shines through the novel and makes it so incredibly exceptional. Sometimes I wonder how Claire Cameron could have possibly written so well how a 5 year old’s thought process works and wanders. Claire Cameron, are you secretly a 5 year old prodigy? Just kidding. But she is that talented though. I spent half the book horrified and the other half in awe of how the whole narrative weaves together, leaving the reader clues as to what’s happening.
So here are my final thoughts on The Bear. If you’re already terrified of bears, you might as well read it because hey, it can’t get any worse right? And if you aren’t already terrified of bears, you probably will be after you read this book. And regardless of how much you were or will become terrified of bears, this book it totally worth your time for it’s incredible narrative that leaves the reader consistently on their toes.
Book cover image Claire Cameron’s website.