Thursday, April 10, 2014

What a bear...

I recently read The Bear by Claire Cameron; a highly anticipated second novel from a prize winning writer. The story recounts the horrific event of a bear attack on a remote island in Ontario's Algonquin Park. The story is based loosely on a true event that occurred in 1991 when a couple was killed by a rogue bear in the same park. Cameron chose to retell the event by creating a fictional family rather than just focusing on the couple. The narrative is told through the eyes of the five-year-old daughter, Anna, who witnesses the aftermath of the attack and must rescue and care for her two-year-old brother. The novel is broken into three parts which are all narrated by Anna--every single word. Unfortunately, there is more information in the book jacket and author’s note than is ever provided within the story itself. I can’t help but wonder how the story would convey to a reader who was left with nothing outside of the text but the narrative and the title.
For the most part, the narration of the five-year-old added nothing to the storyline. The ruminations and inner workings of Anna’s mind seemed very contrived and forced. I felt like I was reading a story written by someone who has never experienced a child at this age. Not all children are the same, but I felt like some very elemental things were missing or overplayed depending on the situation. However, I will say that the third part of the novel, the rescue and homecoming of two newly orphaned children, was very profound. This part seemed very logical to have from the child’s perspective in order to express the confusion and residual effects of something so tragic.

The book was a quick read, but it left me unfulfilled. Not all events are suited for creative retelling. This is one story that failed to live up to the promotional efforts. Poor plot points and a contrived voice ruined the promised suspense and intrigue discussed in the reviews. Not to mention, some actions are just too difficult to justify on behalf of the parents when small children are involved in the decision making process. I hate to criticize a book so harshly, but this is one that failed to impress me. I will say that I did finish the book (I had to know what happened to Stick), but little else kept my attention.

No comments: