I love to read. And I read a lot. I only choose books I know I'm going to enjoy. But every so often, there's that book that goes beyond that enjoyment feeling - one that absolutely grabs you, has you tingling with anticipation knowing there's an amazing story just waiting within the pages, one that you can't wait to tell others about.
Well, I'm telling you - The Bear by Claire Cameron is one of those books. I literally could not put it down. Twenty pages in, I just knew I wasn't going to bed early that night.
In October of 1991, a pair of campers was attacked by a bear in Algonquin Park, Canada. "There is no clear reason for what happened other than a hungry bear decided to take a chance on a new source of food." Author Cameron was a counsellor at a summer camp at Algonquin that year as well. "The Bear is based on my memories of and research into this bear attack. I added the kids."
Yes, kids. The Bear is told through the eyes and voice of five year old Anna. She and her two year old brother Stick, are the survivors of an attack that kills their parents - and leaves them alone in the vast wilderness that is Algonquin.
As adults, we know what is happening and what they should do, but Anna is only five and has limited skills, knowledge and experience to draw on. It is frightening and heartbreaking to imagine this truly happening - the confusion, the questions, the fear and the loss. Cameron does a truly fantastic job of bringing this to the page with Anna's voice. Through her memories, thoughts and senses (smell and touch are very important to Anna) we come to know the children, the family's life, the parents and their love for Anna and Stick. Anna draws on her memories time and time again as she struggles with what to do.
The Bear is told in a 'stream-of-consciousness', non-linear format that was highly effective and heightened the tension.
Emotional, unsettling, gripping and gut-wrenchingly good. Highly, highly recommended. Read an excerpt of The Bear.
"Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto and studied at Queen's University. She led canoe trips in Algonquin Park and worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing and white-water rafting in Oregon. She lived San Francisco and London, UK, until moving back to Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two sons. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, National Post and The Millions. Her first novel, The Line Painter, won the Northern Lit Award from the Ontario Library Service and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Award for best first novel. Visit the author at http://www.claire-cameron.com/
You can find Claire Cameron on Facebook and on Twitter.