Published by Little Brown & Company on February 11, 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure
While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family's campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey.
At her dying mother's faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family's canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, and the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness, we see Anna's heartbreaking love for her family--and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.
Told in the honest, raw voice of five-year-old Anna, this is a riveting story of love, courage, and survival.
This is not my first encounter with a book narrated by a 5-year-old – I read and loved Room by Emma Donoghue. But with The Bear, the narration was awkward and frustrating. Perhaps the problem is that I don’t know many (or any) 5-year-olds, and perhaps this book accurately depicts how they think and speak, but after 200 pages of: “I am crying and there is a lake in my body that all the tears come from and it is getting smaller and the lake at my feet is getting bigger at the same time so my inside lake will be dry and I will be die and it will be Momma’s fault because she let me keep crying all day and it feels like a long time,” I had had enough.
Both The Bear and Room feature very disturbing plots, especially when you consider that the events are swirling around very young children. In The Bear, a little girl, Anna, hears her parents being mauled by a bear while the family is camping. In Room, a little boy is born to a young woman who was kidnapped, raped, and held captive for years. Both plots are likely more disturbing to the reader than to the children, because the children are too young to grasp the horror of their situations.
While both books are told in the voices of young children, Room benefited from having dialogue between the young boy and his mother. It was refreshing to read words spoken by an adult from time to time. But in The Bear, both parents are quickly knocked out of commission, and we are left in the head of little Anna. I was also struck by the fact that Anna had little sense that anything was wrong, even when she saw and briefly spoke to her mother who was mauled badly enough that she was unable to move and presumably visibly injured. To the parents out there, please feel free to correct if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t a 5-year-old have a sense of danger if she witnessed her mother in terrible shape after a mauling? Anna’s mother did her best to not frighten her daughter, and she was focused on urging Anna to get herself and her 2-year-old brother to safety. Even so, I kept wondering why this child had no sense that anything was wrong.
OK, so maybe I did want Anna to demonstrate some fear and some awareness of her surroundings, but I’m not totally heartless! I was also hoping that she and her brother would escape the the hungry bear, and I’m glad that it only took a bit over 200 pages to find out if she was successful.