"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

28 April 2015

2015 Book Review #12: The Bear

  Sad. Happy. Poignant.  
Scary. Exciting.
Intense.  Suspenseful.
  Chilling.  Haunting......

Those are just a few adjectives that sum up the feelings I had while reading this story. 

The story is told in the voice of the little girl (Anna) who is 5 years old.  I was drawn to this book because I'm a camper, hiker, and teacher of young children.

It is based on actual accounts in 1991 on Bates Island, Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Canada.  The author added children to her fiction story...the actual event was a man and woman.


Five-year-old Anna is camping on Bates Island, a remote piece of land in a remote wilderness park, north of Toronto, Canada.  She is there with her family.....mommy, daddy, and Alex, whom she calls by his nickname "Stick".

One night, she wakes up in the tent to the sound of her mother screaming.  A black bear, unprovoked, has attacked the family's campsite.  The bear pounces on the parents as prey.

She hears her mother whisper her name.....Mommy is dying, lying among some plants, but Anna doesn't realize it........Mommy wants her to take Alex and get to the canoe and paddle away.  And where is Daddy??  She sees his shoe.........

But...she has trouble maneuvering the canoe with 2 year old Alex inside and it runs aground.  Now they are on the edge of the woods, completely alone.  They are thirsty, hungry, and battling the elements of the wilderness.

Their only hope is in Anna's determination to survive and in her love for her family.  She is struggling to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe any longer.


This book left me breathless.  It was a quick read because it isn't a long story and it isn't difficult but it IS told in the voice of a 5 year old, so it tends to ramble like a young child would talk and think.  I am very impressed with the way the author wrote this book.  

The author has some good knowledge of the actual event that happened in 1991, as she was a camp counselor who led groups of teenagers on canoe trips throughout that park.  This story is based on her memories and her research.

In the real event, the couple did nothing wrong.  I won't go into detail here as you can read it for yourself in the "forward" of the novel. But....the bear was unprovoked and cooking was not the main attraction.  There was no clear reason why a black bear attacked 2 humans that evening in October of 1991. In this real case, there was no apparent reason for the attack other than the humans were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It is extremely rare that a black bear will prey on humans.

I was so proud of Anna for keeping her self and her baby brother alive.  She is one smart little girl. Reading her thoughts and feelings was incredible.  I felt like I really knew this little girl.  I felt her fear and determination.  I felt her helplessness, and frustration. I felt the depth of her sadness and loss.  I felt her joy when she found her brother and her teddy bear.  I almost cried when the game warden finds them towards the end of the book.  I felt frustrated with the counselor in the story......I felt like, because I've worked with children who have had to deal with loss and trauma, that the counselor from the hospital didn't take her time with Anna and didn't really know how to proceed and ask the more open-ended questions.  That was the only flaw in the book, in my opinion.

The ending is bittersweet.......it is now 2011 and Anna and Alex are in their 20s.  I don't want to tell you how it ends as I don't want to spoil it for you....but it is a marvelous, poignant ending that did leave me a bit breathless.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.

(but....keep in mind, it is the voice of a 5 year old....fragmented thoughts and sentences...and some rambling between past and present...all so typical!)


Susanne said...

That sounds intense!

Melanie Lopata said...

I'm going to check it out!!!