Finished March 7
The Bear by Claire Cameron
This novel was inspired by a real incident that took place in Algonquin Park in 1991. A couple who were camping were attacked and killed by a bear, and analysis of the incident failed to uncover any obvious reason for the attack. Cameron was a camp counselor at the time, and was struck by the seeming randomness of the attack.
In this novel, she recreates the incident in the same place as the real one, but adds the presence of two young children, Anna and Alex, ages 5 and nearly 3. The story is told from the point of view of Anna and I found her voice very believable. Alex has a family nickname, Stick, and this is how Anna refers to him. He is still developing his spoken communication skills and his difficulty with Anna's name results in him calling her Nana. Also playing a role in the story is Anna's doll Gwen.
As the book begins the two children have been put to sleep in the tent while their parents sit near the fire as the day moves into evening. The bear attack for Anna thus has certain aspects of being a dream as she struggles to understand what is going on, and uses past experience for making sense of what she observes and hears.
As the story progresses, Anna's recollection of past events fills in some background of the family, helping the reader to get a good sense of the family dynamics.
As I read, I both wanted to keep reading and to delay getting to the end of the story. Like many a big sister, Anna is both annoyed by her younger sibling and compelled to protect him as best she can. It is this that enables her to follow her mother's instructions to get to a safer place and use the knowledge she has to keep herself and Stick safe.
I found it interesting to see the adult reactions and assumptions, as Anna struggled to adapt to her home situation. The epilogue brought Anna's experience to a new realization and a type of closure.
This book is already making the bestseller lists, and the inevitable comparisons with another book with a child narrator, Room. I think this will be one of my favourite books of the year. I think the cover is perfect too.