The Bear by Claire Cameron book review | Book Addicts

The Bear by Claire Cameron

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The Bear by Claire Cameron is a novel told completely from the point of view of a five year-old named Anna who tries surviving in the wilderness after her parents are brutally killed by a bear at their campsite.

0 out of 10 stars.  I read the entire novel and that was no small feat.  I will include excerpts below directly from the book.  It’s a lot of nonsensical rambling from a child with the mental age of three.  The author did a very poor job of articulating the thoughts of a five year-old.  I think perhaps she is too old to remember what a five year-old speaks like or she has very unintelligent children.  Five year-olds are closer to mini-adults than you think.  They are not sophisticated but they are pretty darned smart.  This one is so slow I kept feeling she was mentally challenged with ADHD.

I have always been fascinated with bears and sharks.  So any novel about a bear or shark always gets my interest.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a beautiful novel by Stephen King of a young girl who is separated from her bickering family while hiking and who manages to survive through hundreds of miles of forest while being stalked by a bear.  It’s told in third person, not first person, and therefore reads really well.  It’s one of my favorite novels about bears and about being stranded in the wilderness.  She inevitably is forced to drink from the stream in the forest and immediately gets sick from a water-borne bacteria native to the forest, but she still manages to remain coherent enough to survive and make her way north, always being led forward by Tom Gordon, her baseball hero, on the radio.

Unfortunately this novel had none of that.  The plot is simply this.  A couple and their two children, Anna 5 and Alex 2, are camping on Bates Island in the Algonquin Park In Ontario, Canada.  During the night while both adults are eating bacon around the campfire and the children are asleep in the tent, a black bear attacks and the children are dragged from the tent by their father and shoved into the Coleman ice chest.  He forces a rock into the lock and locks it shut.  The rock is the only thing permitting a crack to let in air, otherwise the children would suffocate.  That chest saves their lives.  For two days, Anna tries to open the chest because her brother pooped in his diaper.  Eventually it opens by itself and she finds her mother lying in the grass.  She’s not alarmed at all and talks to her mother as though it were any other day.  Her mother orders her to take her brother for a canoe ride in the lake.  Canoes are not boats.  They are extremely dangerous.  They roll at the drop of a hat.  The father is nowhere to be found and the oar is split in half.  So Anna pushes the canoe out into the lake, managing to get inside, and paddles with her tiny arms until they hit a muddy patch near land and scramble ashore again.  They get separated and the next day Anna finds Alex.  They get back in the boat and are found hours later by the Park Warden, John.  There’s another chapter in the hospital and an epilogue of the two going back to the site as adults to make a memorial for their parents.  That’s the entire novel.  There is not enough here to make a novel.  It should’ve been a short story told in 50 pages or less.

I asked Momma for a Barbie and she said no. I cried and stomped my leg and she still said no because Barbie only has lumps for boobs and they are too big for her waist. I cried for a whole week and even Grandpa came for dinner to help me feel better.  He had a piece of lettuce in his hand. I thought Grandpa’s skin was nice and thick like the lettuce except not green. Momma told Grandpa that she wouldn’t buy me a Barbie. Momma said she didn’t like Barbie because she didn’t have a good job.  Grandpa laughed. But then the next day Momma said all the Barbie talk made her feel bad and she said Jessica has lots so we can just go to her house. And we went all the time to Jessica’s so I could play with them and it was really special and nice. Jessica and I got to shut the door of her room and make it into Barbie land and we built a castle and made wings and a wand and played and played. I want to go to Jessica’s house now.

There are 217 pages told this way with nothing to do with the actual plot.  There are no details about the way the parents died, no fear about the bear trying to break into the Coleman chest, no fear in taking that canoe out onto the lake alone, no fear in sinking in the mud and almost drowning only to get separated back on land again.  There is no feeling in this novel.  First person narrative was a huge mistake because the author doesn’t know how to write from a child’s point of view.  Even in the epilogue in which Anna and Alex are now grown, Anna doesn’t feel anything.  She doesn’t remember anything except two places.  This was supposedly the most traumatic event of her life and she felt nothing.

0 out of 10 stars.  I think this may be the worst novel I have ever read.  Poor writing and a lackluster plot make it pointless.  There were also gaping plot holes.  It is a known fact that bears eat people’s faces first and then their internal organs through their abdomen.  Screaming does not bother them.  They rarely gnaw on bones.  They eat the soft flesh and leave the rest for the other critters of the forest.  In this novel, the mother’s face is completely unharmed and it appears her body is as well, yet Anna hears the bear chomping on bones all night long, making her think he’s a dog.

The author has a forward about a real case of a couple killed by a black bear on Bates Island, Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada, the same setting as the story.  This couple was much older and childless.  Their story inspired the movie Backcountry which is much better than this novel.  If you go to Wikipedia and read the list of bear attacks, the one that gets my attention every time is the 2001 case in which a 93 year old woman is sitting in her cabin and is killed by a bear who breaks through the kitchen window!  Now that would make an awesome story.

Reviewed by Jill.

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