Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE BEAR by Claire Cameron

Like ROOM by Emma Donoghue, this book is a harrowing story delivered in the voice of a 5-year-old.  Anna, our narrator, is camping on an island with her family when a bear goes on a rampage, killing both her parents.  Her father barely has time to stuff the two children into a large cooler to wait out the bear’s attack, and her dying mother instructs Anna to get her brother into the canoe and leave the island.  Her brother Alex, nicknamed Sticky, or Stick for short, is still in diapers and presents another set of challenges.  Sometimes he likes to pretend to be a dog, obedient and eager to please, but I have to say that a real dog would be more helpful in this type of emergency than a toddler.  Anna feels a sense of big-sister responsibility for him, while at the same time becoming exasperated by his actions, which constantly impede Anna’s survival efforts.  Some readers may find Anna’s account a bit annoying with the choppy language and childish vocabulary, but I found it mesmerizing, especially since she judges her environment largely by sense of smell.  Her interpretation of what happens is somewhat off-kilter, and I can’t actually say whether her version of the events is appropriate for a 5-year-old’s mind or not.  In any case, her viewpoint is skewed in a manner that shields her from the stark truth that she and Stick are alone and unprotected in the wilderness.  The ultimate irony is that Anna’s only source of comfort throughout this experience is another bear—Gwen, her beloved teddy bear, whose status, in Anna’s eyes is almost that of a family member.  The ending of this book is so perfect that I had to choke back a big sob, but this is a nail-biter, not a tearjerker, and it’s not really scary--just grisly.

No comments: