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The Bear: A Novel Hardcover – February 11, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 240 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When a young couple in Canada’s Algonquin Park gets mauled and partially eaten by a black bear in 1991, it’s a tragedy. When Cameron, who once worked at the park, researches and decides to write about this true story but adds the kids, it’s a novel. In The Bear, the protagonist is a five-year-old girl, Anna, who must, after her parents are attacked, save herself and the life of her two-year-old brother, Stick, by canoeing to the mainland and surviving days in the wilderness—a harrowing time she shares with the reader in a sort of youngster stream of consciousness: If I threw a ball into the water he would not jump off a dock just wag wag wag. There’s touchingly voiced courageousness here and, with her sibling, talk of poo as well as the occasional, implausible preschooler sentiment: I need a fire inside my bones. From the conception to the execution, the book is an exploration of anguish from a child’s point of view, shaded and shaped by Cameron (The Line Painter, 2007). --Eloise Kinney


Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction


"A gripping survival thriller...Cameron unspools the adventure in Anna's twitchy voice, heightening the tension as the youngsters battle storms, cold, hunger and fear...But this agonizing odyssey of loss and being lost has humor...The book's anguished yet hopeful ending provides a touching terminus...This expertly crafted novel could do for camping what Jaws did for swimming."―Richard Eisenberg, People (4 out of 4 stars)

"A page turner...Like Emma Donoghue's Room...The Bear creates suspense out of the gap between what Anna knows and what the reader suspects...The story is laced with humor and moments of joy and triumph as well as fear and sorrow...So gripping that it is hard to put the novel down."―Margaret Quamme, Columbus Dispatch

"Read this book in one sitting...Taut and engrossing...Cameron proves masterly in the creation of a child's fractured world view, as familiar as it is unexpected, as observant as it is naive...Cameron's resonant plot and Anna's unforgettable voice add up to a novel destined to stay with you long after you've chewed through it."―Jared Bland, The Globe and Mail

"Visceral...Cameron reminds us how tenuous is our mastery of the natural world."―Christine Fischer Guy, The Millions

"A gut-wrenching trip through the Canadian wilderness with a 5-year-old as your guide, a roller coaster of emotions...Heart-wrenching...I had to force myself to slow down and not race through pages...Cameron does an exquisite job with Anna's story...Very engaging. Bittersweet, and lovely. If you liked the childlike voice of Room, you'll be captivated here."―Kelly Konrad, Chicago Now

"A vividly portrayed wilderness ordeal...all seen through the eyes of a child...Uplifting."―Publishers Weekly, "Pick of the Week"

"A slam-bang opening...Scary...Darkly funny...Touching...Harrowing but ultimately hopeful."―Kirkus Reviews

"Harrowing...A sort of youngster stream of consciousness...Touchingly voiced courageousness...From the conception to the execution, the book is an exploration of anguish from a child's point of view, shaded and shaped by Cameron."―Eloise Kinney, Booklist

"The concerns of the young narrator - being good, remaining brave when her parents and her teddy bear are gone, how annoying her brother is - are an engaging, focused lens through which to view events in the novel...This is a fast, compelling read for nature lovers."―Gwen Vredevoogd, Library Journal (Starred Review)

"An emotional tour de force. Claire Cameron's The Bear offers us an unforgettable child narrator who propels us through a story as unsettling as it is bone-chilling, and as suspenseful as it is moving."―Megan Abbott, author of Dare Me

"The Bear is a taut and touching story of how a child's love and denial become survival skills. Claire Cameron takes a fairytale situation of children pitted against the wilderness, removes the fairies, and adds a terrifying and ravenous bear. I devoured this wonderful new novel in one day."―Charlotte Rogan, author of the national bestseller The Lifeboat

"Claire Cameron has written a chilling, beautiful, voice-driven novel, one that will turn your blood cold, make you laugh, and remind you of all the ways you are human. Most importantly she honors the complexity of our relationship with nature, the ways we are humbled by it and tethered to it. A vivid, potent, and unforgettable novel."―Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise

"Claire Cameron plunges us in to the dark terrors of the wilderness. The Bear is a survival story that is heart-pounding and moving. I devoured this book."―Tanis Rideout, author of Above All Things

"The Bear faultlessly captures the wonder, bewilderment, fear and self-centeredness of five-year-old Anna, and beautifully balances the darkness of her tale with a hopeful, sensitively told back story and moments when she grasps her situation with just enough clarity to shoulder her burden."―Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls

"Thrilling and harrowing...I couldn't put this book down. And I must say that the ending was so right, I caught myself holding my breath. A remarkable novel."―Anthony De Sa, author of Kicking the Sky

"Harrowing suspense. The Bear is a survival thriller that is told from a child's-eye point-of-view, which is not only convincing but doubles the tension. A heartbreaking, white-knuckle read."―Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist

"The Bear is a harrowing and endlessly hopeful novel-an unforgettable hymn to the legacy of familial love. Claire Cameron is alive to mind of the child. Her assured evocation of soon-to-be-six-year-old Anna hits all the right notes: the connective web of association and analogy; the permeable skin between truth and story; the immersive experience of time. This is subtle magic-the transportive spell of a pitch-perfect narrative voice. We witness the unfolding of events through Anna's eyes while simultaneously watching over her small shoulder, hearts in our mouths. The Bear is no fable, gentle reader. A source of terror and lonely solace, Cameron's fur-clad villain threatens from without and from within. Like our unwilling heroine, we must be very, very brave."―Alissa York, author of Fauna

"A hauntingly beautiful novel about the unspoken bond between mothers and children."―Miriam Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031623012X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316230124
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Amazon.com Prime delivered the book yesterday on Thursday afternoon, and I started to read it in bed that night. After several hours of non-stop reading, I was over a half way through when I reluctantly put it on my nightstand and fell asleep. I finished the book this morning. There was no way I could begin my day until I found out what happened to Anna and Stick.

The Bear by Claire Cameron is a novel unlike anything I have ever read before—and I read—a lot. I was completely carried away by the story and caught up in the narrator’s innocent, brave, tragic, hopeful, and at times surprisingly funny perspective on a horrific journey of loss and love.

When I read a review for The Bear in People magazine this past week, I was immediately intrigued. Written in a first-person POV of a 5-year-old girl and her 2-year-old brother, escaping a bear attack and wandering in the woods alone. Seriously? How on earth would this author pull off such a fete and make me believe the narrator—and the story? Yet make me believe it, she did.

Yes, the storyline is a bit dark and uncomfortable. It's a novel based on an actual bear attack in 1991 on a wilderness island northeast of Toronto. A brutal attack that killed two campers—a young couple—and stunned the nation. The author worked as a counselor at a nearby summer camp at the time, and her novel is based on her memories of and research into this bear attack.

In asking and effectively answering the “What if?" questions, as in, “What if this happened to a young family on a camping trip…” and “What if there were young children involved?” Cameron has written not only a powerful suspense story, but a story of heartbreaking love, and inspiring hope. It's an evocative and powerful story destined to hit the bestseller lists.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
The Bear was inspired by an actual event that occurred on Bates Island in Algonquin Park, Ontario. A bear attacked and killed two adult campers. In Claire Cameron's version of the story, the adults are camping with two children. Told from the point of view of one of the two kids, Anna Whyte, The Bear is a poignant and startling novel.

Writing from a child's perspective is no easy task. Childlike prose will rarely hold an adult reader's interest while eloquent prose seems artificial when it comes from a child. The trick, deftly executed here, is to show the reader an adult world from a child's eyes, assembling the simple language that a child would use in ungrammatically interesting sentences that reflect the imagination and confusion of a child's existence. In Anna's mind, a cooler named Coleman is her friend, an octopus helps her battle armies of fish, a bear is a big black dog, and how her father's tennis shoe ended up on a big chunk of meat is a puzzle.

The first section of The Bear is written with horrifying realism, making a compelling story all the more intense. The beauty of the story is that an adult reader, who understands what is happening, is more disturbed than Anna, who is too young to appreciate the gruesome and terrifying reality that surrounds her. Immaturity makes children vulnerable but it also protects them emotionally. Anna's immaturity, in turn, protects the reader from gut-wrenching descriptions of loss and pain.

The problem with opening a novel with such intensity is that once the reader's fear dissipates, the rest of the novel feels anticlimactic. There is, in fact, a lull in the middle section of The Bear. While the prose continues to capture a child's perspective, it is a less interesting account of two lost kids.
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