The Bear: A Novel by Claire Cameron

The Bear: A Novel

byClaire Cameron

Paperback | February 11, 2014

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The black dog is not scratching. He goes back to his sniffing and huffing and then he starts cracking his bone. Stick and I are huddled tight. . . . It is dark and no Daddy or Mommy and after a while I watch the lids of my eyes close down like jaws.

Told from the point of view of a six-year-old child, The Bear is the story of Anna and her little brother, Stick--two young children forced to fend for themselves in Algonquin Park after a black bear attacks their parents. A gripping and mesmerizing exploration of the child psyche, this is a survival story unlike any other, one that asks what it takes to survive in the wilderness and what happens when predation comes from within.

About The Author

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...
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Details & Specs

Title:The Bear: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.19 × 5.8 × 0.72 inPublished:February 11, 2014Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385679025

ISBN - 13:9780385679022

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

I can hear the air going in and out of my brother’s nose. I am awake. He is two years old and almost three and he bugs me lots of times because I am five years old and soon I will be six but it is warm sleeping next to him. I call him Stick. He always falls asleep before me and I listen to the air of his nose. I can hear my parents’ voices. They are farther away than I can reach and whispering because they think I can’t hear. I let out a squeak to let Momma know I am awake and she says “We’re right here” from too far away. I squeak again and the tent zipper undoes and I can see the sky in the crack. Her cool hand brushes my hair back and her fingers touch my cheek. “Shh, Anna,” she says and the sky zips away again. When I am inside a tent the outside is far away.The tent is blue and sniffs like dust. My parents have a fire because it is the end of summer and they are cooking something too and not sharing with me. Bacon. I love bacon. My tummy rumbles and I want bacon but it will make Daddy mad. I sniff Gwen teddy bear instead. She is brown and smells like us. I hear the air whistle when it leaves Sticky’s nose. I feel nervous and I don’t know why. The night will be dark soon. And it might be the meat is making my tummy weird. When we were back at the cottage, Sticky was chewing on bacon and he shoved another in his mouth and another and another. When Momma saw she said“Chew your food” but Stick couldn’t chew because his mouth was all full. He started to go red and his eyes got watery and I thought he was crying. I said “Ha-ha Alex’s crying” and Momma came and thumped him. A ball of bacon came out of his mouth. Momma got Stick in trouble for not chewing and I looked at the meat. It had spit on it. I felt a barf in my mouth. And I didn’t eat that bacon ball but it’s making my tummy feel weird.The air is cold. I roll closer to Stick. His breath goes in my ear and it is warm. A little piece of light from the fire is having a dance on the side of the tent but only a little because it is notdark yet. There is no music except Stick’s nose air and still the light flicks and rolls on the side of the tent. I can’t sleep. I tuck Gwen under the covers so she isn’t cold and I creep over to the door. The zipper has teeth that grab onto my skin. I go slow so it doesn’t bite and I open it just a little bit so my face can be out. The carpet here is made of pine needles. They smell like the yellow bottle I use to help Momma clean the bathtub. There are prickle pine trees all around our camp. These are the ones that forgot the needles on the ground. The moon is going to switch with the sun and the moon will have a tail that shows up onthe water. The water is not chop chop chop anymore. It sits quietly in the lake now because it is sleeping. Close to the water, really far away from me, I can see two shadows. I can hear fromthe whispers that it’s Momma and Daddy and they are laughing. Momma leans forward and I see a ponytail like a horse’s hanging down. Her face is smiling and I can see her teeth in a nice way. The only other thing I can see is Coleman.Coleman is green like grass and he is so heavy I can’t lift him up. We bring him on canoe trips to carry our food and keep it cold. And we use him so that bears can’t rob the food fromus. Bears like our food if we let them and we don’t want to do that. So Coleman holds everything cool inside his body and has a metal tooth in the front that keeps him shut tight. He is really really big and a metal box. Stick and I can both fit inside him like when we play hide and seek at home. We can stay so quiet and hide in Coleman from Daddy and try to stop laughing with my hand on Stick’s mouth. When Coleman sits in the canoe he can’t fit across sideways and so Daddy needs to put him pointing to the front. Only Daddy can lift him up. When Coleman has to pee he has a little button at the side where I can push and his pee comes out and when I see it sometimes I pee too. Coleman is why we camped on the island because he is so heavy and big. The water was chop chop chop because the wind was  whistling in my ears and Coleman makes the canoe go tippy. If we went down the path to the next lake where we were supposed to camp then Daddy would have to carry Coleman and the canoe but Momma wanted to be here at the island to see the tail of the moon. Once I tried to pick Coleman up and I can’t.I whisper hello to Coleman and Daddy’s head turns away from the fire: “Back in the tent, Anna.”I stay still to make me dream.“Did you hear me?”I am awake.“Last time, okay?”“Yes, Daddy.”“Sleep tight.”I poke my head inside and Gwen missed me. She looks lonely and I tell her with my eyes that I am coming. I carefully take the zipper in my fingers. They feel furry in the tips and too tired to pull. Zipper will bite if I don’t watch out. I pull again and the zipper tries to get me between my thumb and pointy finger, the soft part that looks like it could be on a frog. I sit back and pull my hand away. The zipper must be hungry and so I will stay away. I grab Gwen and sniff and tuck her back into the sleeping bag.I lie on my back and snuggle and the fire is dancing more on the side of the tent because it is a little more blue and gray outside. I watch it and my eyes start to shut but I don’t wantthem to. Maybe if Stick is asleep then Momma will pluck me out of bed and feed me bacon. I want to ask out loud but my teeth are too fuzzy. My head is heavy like a rock. My eyes shutagain and I peel them open. I hear a sniff. It might have been from Sticky’s nose but it sounded bigger than that. Stick’s nose must be growing and in the middle of the night it will hog all the air. Something moves on the side of the tent. I see some fluff beside the dancing fire and I think the fluff is Stick’s hair. He has escaped. It might be his little white head sneaking out for bacon. A few of his fluffy hairs are sticking up as a shadow just outside the tent. His nose whistles beside me so I know it’s not, but the hair stands up and I think it looks thicker. The hair stands there shaking like my fingers when I am hungry. I watch it and it moves forward only a very little, as slow as a snail. It would be a hairy snail and much bigger and that means it probably isn’t a snail anymore. And the bacon smells and my eyes fall down and now I can open them only a crack. I see the hair move and I think as my eye shuts how did Stick stay sleeping and sneak out of the tent for bacon at the same time?

Bookclub Guide

1. How did you react to reading an entire book from the perspective of a five-year-old? Did you like Anna’s voice? Did it take some time for you to connect and/or relate to the differences in syntax?2. One of the challenges an author takes on by using a young child as narrator is that their vocabulary is limited as often is their viewpoint. Because of this narrative style, the reader is left to connect a lot of the dots themselves. Were there any parts that you reread once you were used to the style?3. Do you think the story would have been as compelling if it wasn’t told in first person? How would it have differed?4. The novel is divided into four sections (three parts and an epilogue), each with an identifiable theme. Discuss.5. Did you sense an element of humour in the narrative? If so, what was its role? What are the different ways that Cameron used suspense to build the narrative?6. What are five adjectives you would use to describe this book?7. Have you ever encountered a bear in the wilderness? Will this story change the way you feel about camping and the outdoors?8. Did the book make you feel anxious, were there any parts that were hard to read? Was there a particular scene that resonated with you? Explain what sort of emotions came up for you and why.9. Examine the way the children responded to being alone in the wilderness. Do you think you would have acted similarly under the same circumstances at their age? Would you have returned to the island?10. Discuss the evolution of Anna and Stick’s relationship over the course of the narrative. What are some of the difficulties that the children have to deal with other than the bear?11. How did you interpret the significance of Gwen?12. What do you think Anna is talking about when she refers to the “black dog” in her belly? How did her perception of the bear change over the course of her life? Do you think the bear is also a metaphor for something? Are there any other metaphors that stood out for you?13. Based on Anna's long road to recovery after the attack, and her bout of silence, she was clearly much more traumatized by the events than her initial telling of the story would have us believe. What are the implications of this trauma?14. What kind of domestic conflict do you think occurred between Anna’s parents before the trip?  What was its significance to the story?15. In what ways was the return to the island different for Alex and Anna? What did you think of the ending?

Editorial Reviews

National Bestseller"The Bear had me up all night, and when I finally put it down I knew that I wouldn't  forget Anna and her little brother Stick for a long time. Claire Cameron is an absolute master in letting us feel grief and loss by never using those words. The ending is very moving and offers us real consolation at the same time."-- Herman Koch, author of The Dinner"A masterful balancing act of suspense and relief. . . . A bravura performance." —The Globe and Mail “Extraordinary.... Stylistically impressive and deeply moving.” —Glamour (UK)“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.” —The Globe and Mail“This expertly crafted novel could do for camping what Jaws did for swimming. . . . A gripping survival thriller.” —People “Anna’s a character who stays with you long after you’ve put the book down. . . . This is a thrilling and utterly captivating tale.” —Chatelaine  “A gripping, affecting story that reads like a hybrid of Henry James’s What Maisie Knew and Margaret Atwood’s Survival. . . . It serves as a reminder that the quest for survival doesn’t end with rescue––and that children are not alone in venturing into terrain far more treacherous than they can ever know.” —Maclean’s“Claire Cameron manages to create something both quintessentially Canadian and breathtakingly fresh . . . terrifying, beautiful and thrilling.” —Zoomer"A beautiful novel that is ultimately about maternal love…. It made me cry and I couldn't stop." —Miriam Toews“What makes Claire Cameron’s The Bear so remarkable and riveting is that this story of two siblings lost in the woods is told from the child’s point of view. . . . It is also, of course, Anna’s naïveté that makes The Bear such a harrowing read.” —Edmonton Journal“Cameron does a masterful job of capturing Anna’s voice and inner world…. But the real beauty in this novel, despite the absence of the children’s parents, is its depiction of parental love.”—Calgary Herald“The Bear is a gut-wrenching story that will keep you reading to find out what happens to the children. The story is also quite touching to see how the siblings take care of each other when things get tough despite their disagreements. . . . Readers will want to finish The Bear well before camping season begins, unless you enjoy reading a spooky tale around the fire.” —The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)“An emotional tour de force.  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 and The End of Everything“A harrowing and endlessly hopeful novel…. [Cameron’s] assured evocation of soon-to-be-six-year-old Anna hits all the right notes. We witness the unfolding of events through Anna’s eyes while simultaneously watching over her small shoulder, hearts in our mouths.“ —Alissa York, author of Fauna“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“A taut and touching story of how a child's love and denial become survival skills.” —Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat"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“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“Claire Cameron plunges us in to the dark terrors of the wilderness. The Bear is a survival story that is heart-pounding and moving.”—Tanis Rideout, author of Above All Things“The concerns of the young narrator—being good, remaining brave when her parents and her teddy bear are now 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.” —Library Journal (Starred Review)“Harrowing.… There’s touchingly voiced courageousness here.… From the conception to the execution, the book is an exploration of anguish from a child’s point of view.” —Booklist