by Claire Cameron
I\’m kind of on a bear-related theme…. This one also was around the blogs a lot some years ago. It\’s based on a true incident where a couple lost their lives to a bear while camping on a remote lakeshore. Here the author added the characters of two young children, and told the story from their point of view.
Anna is five and her little brother is almost three. At night in pitch darkness a bear enters the campsite. The children don\’t understand why their parents are screaming and they hide, afraid of being in trouble. As his last act their father shuts them into a large metal cooler, saving their lives. When they emerge in the morning to the wreckage of camp, it\’s clear from the girl\’s narrative that she doesn\’t comprehend what has happened, nor how serious the situation is. Her seriously injured mother talks her into taking her little brother for a ride in the canoe- and thus they flee to the other side of the lake. Where they stumble alone for days through the woods, suffering from hunger, cold, insect bites and more.
This was very gripping, sad and even funny in some moments. I thought the voice of the young child was really well done- it veers around a lot following trains of thought which show how the little kid\’s mind makes connections that might seem unreasonable to an adult. It seemed authentic- the magical thinking, the disconnect from real danger, oblivious to certain things and heightened attention to others. Through Anna\’s memories that crop up during the story we gradually get a wider picture of her family\’s history, her personality and understanding of things. She struggles to stay in control of her emotions (one moment angry at her parents for not being there, the next feeling guilty- thinking they abandoned her on purpose), to take care of her little brother, to think what to do next. I\’m glad the tale didn\’t stop short at the point the children were found, but followed through with a few more chapters showing the aftermath, the reactions of extended family and neighbors, how the children readjusted. The parts at the end where her drawings and conversation led a therapist to make erroneous conclusions were amusing in a very sad, ironic way. The role the cooler played was completely realistic- on the author\’s site she even tells how she tested out this idea with a friend\’s kids.
Borrowed from the public library.
Rating: 4/5 221 pages, 2014