The Bear by Claire Cameron





An interesting fact about The Bear is that it’s based on the true story of a couple who were killed in Algonquin Park. For her book, Claire Cameron added children to the story.


Five-year old Anna is camping with her parents and younger brother on a small island in Algonquin Park. She wakes up at night to yelling and screaming. First, it’s her mother screaming and then soon after, her father. She thinks her parents are mad at her. Things don’t become any clearer when her father scoops her out of the tent and sticks her into their huge portable fridge. He manages to get her brother, Alex, into the fridge and wedge a rock in the door so they can get air. Anna can’t see much from inside the fridge, but she hears noises and sees the fur of a strange dog. When Anna and Alex are finally able to escape the fridge in the morning, their parents are not around and the campsite has been destroyed. From there begins Anna and Alex’s harrowing experience getting off the island and surviving in the wilderness for the next few days: alone, confused and frightened.


I’ve always been interested in survivor stories and I like that we get the perspective of this tale from a five-year old little girl, but Claire Cameron adds another layer by including the back story of their family. Throughout her ordeal, Anna often gives us glimpses of little, innocent moments of love she shared with her mother. She describes the secret separation of her parents and how both children achingly missed their father. Anna remembers how much she was loved and draws on these memories for hope, to find strength and courage to push on, to acknowledge her responsibility as an older sister to Alex and be bigger than she is. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful to read.


As interesting as it is to have Anna as the narrator, reading rambling childish thoughts for a whole book can be incredibly frustrating and sometimes boring. It is probably the book’s greatest weakness. Don’t get me wrong, Anna was often very imaginative in her interpretation of the situation, but just as often she was repetitive. In addition, I think The Bear is too long and would have been better as a novella. I think Claire Cameron wanted to touch on Anna’s trauma afterwards, but I felt it dragged the story out even more and unnecessarily.


Overall, I thought The Bear was a very good book, original and thrilling. My children are roughly the same age as the two survivors in the book, so I thought about them at almost every page. I stared at my kids, trying to imagine them in the same terrifying scenario as little Anna and Alex. I thought if I read this book it would exacerbate my already existing mom fears or I would cry through the whole thing, but I didn’t. No doubt because the story isn’t just about a bear attack and two little kids trying to survive, it’s about the love of a family and how there’s always hope to be found in love.

Have you read The Bear? What do you think?


7 Comments on “The Bear by Claire Cameron”

  1. Naomi says:

    I didn’t read this review thoroughly, because I have The Bear on hold at the library and will be reading it soon. I’ve been really looking forward to this one, so it’s good to see you liked it. I’m a bit nervous, since we spend a lot of time camping with the kids in the summer, but that’s part of why I think it will be fun to read. Weird, I know.

    I see that you’re also reading the Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, another one I have on hold. Can’t wait to hear what you think of that one, as well!

    • I don’t think that’s weird at all. I completely know what you mean and it’s one of the reasons I decided to read the book. I thought it might be a good thing to confront some of those fears. I was full of dread when I first started reading the book and that went away when I started to get annoyed with the narration. But in the end I didn’t have too much of a head trip thinking about my kids in that kind of scenario.

      The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is so good, I’m really enjoying it.

  2. writereads says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this one! I was wondering how well the voices of the kids would go over. I have heard the first part of the story is pretty intense from a lot of people, so it’s interesting to know that it ends up dragging a bit in the end.
    But I’m also someone who thinks many novels tend to go on for too long, I’m a girl who likes an efficiency of phrasing, I can’t help it.
    Oh, and with Naomi I’ll be looking forward to what you think of the Zevin. I tend to love her as an author!

    • I’m totally with you on efficiency of phrasing (fantastic term!) and I felt some of that was missing with this book. The first part of the book was very intense and the latter half was fine, but then the author just kept the story going on. I don’t want to be too critical because I still think it was a good book, but I definitely feel some of the last few chapters were unnecessary.

      What else have you read by Gabrielle Zevin? A.J. Fikry is a great book. I smile a lot when I read it and the literary references are a book nerd’s dream.

  3. DoingDewey says:

    How cool that this is based on a true story! I love when authors let you know what part of a book like this is true and what is made up. Like the other commenters, I’m planning on on starting A. J. Fikry soon, so I’ll be excited to hear what you think. The literary references seem like they’ll be a lot of fun!

    • I think you will like A.J. Fikry. It’s so easy to read, funny and you’ll find yourself smiling at all the cute ways books and reading and bookish culture are interwoven into the story.

  4. I’ve heard a few other people not loving the child narrator of this one. I can understand why but it didn’t bother me. (I’m so glad it didn’t, lol) This book broke my heart in a million pieces.

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