Book review: The Bear, by Claire Cameron

Kurtis Thomas

Everybody has a fear that they can’t quite explain. No amount of illuminating or statistical evidence will convince certain people to step foot in the ocean, or climb down those dark basement stairs. Claire Cameron’s, The Bear plays on the idea of fear, and overcoming it, in more than one interesting way in its concise page span.

The book begins innocently enough, when we’re introduced to the four members of the Whyte family on a family camping trip through Algonquin Park. The calm is quickly upset when the titular bear shows up at the campsite, and the results are as tragic as one might expect. Our narrator, 5-year-old Anna, is entrusted with the protection of her younger brother (nicknamed Stick), and we join them in their harrowing escape.

Seeing these horrific events through the eyes and logic of a child is what will ultimately make Anna stick with you long after the book has been finished. The narrative is free flowing and disjointed, as Anna struggles to make sense of the situation in which she has found herself.

This narrative style gives the reader insight into other aspects of Anna’s home life, that serve as an interesting sub-plot to The Bear. No spoilers here, but it adds an engrossing layer to the narrative when we quickly understand the adult relationships that Anna is struggling to make sense of on her journey.

As Anna battles hunger, darkness, and the other dangers of the Algonquin wilderness — we feel horrified, but surprisingly inspired by her acts of courage. The Bear is a story of love and bravery at all costs, and of understanding the logic of fear through the eyes of perfect innocence.

The Bear offers an illuminating look into a worldview most of us left behind long ago. It’s emotional, gripping, and a page-turner in every sense of the phrase. It deftly handles topics bigger than its short page span should allow. It’s that narrative hook that will keep it with you long after you’ve finished devouring it.

It is a perfect summer read – decide for yourself if you want to bring it on your next camping trip.