Audiobook Review: The Bear by Claire Cameron

  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio (February 11, 2014)

Five year old Anna is camping with her parents and three year old brother Alex (affectionately referred to as Stick) on a remote island. She is awakened to hear her mother yelling (“Momma never yells, except maybe twice”) and finds that the campsite is in shambles. Their father, in an effort to protect them, throws Anna and Alex into a cooler, ordering them to remain inside.  Anna, too young to contemplate what is happening, sees a big brown shape and believes it to be a big dog. The big dog is actually a bear and their campsite is under attack.

So begins this story of survival. Anna, a young child herself, is now not only responsible for her own survival but that of her  young brother as well.  Told from Anna’s point of view, the reader (or listener) gets a glimpse from the perspective of a five year old. Her innocence, her naivety, are at the same time endearing and heartbreaking.  She’s thrust into situations no five year old should ever have to experience, much less alone. Her attempts to care for her brother are admirable, finding berries to feed him, “chocolate milk” water from a puddle to quench his thirst, and leaves to clean him when he soils himself. Her knowledge for a child that age is quite admirable.

The problem with many books written to be told from the perspective of a child instead read like what an adult think that child’s perspective would be. That’s not the case with this novel. I honestly completely forgot that I was listening to a novel, written by an adult. Instead, I was instantly consumed by young Anna’s world. It felt as though I was sitting beside her, listening as she retold the tragedy that had befallen her family.

This leads me to the audio production of this book. One word: Outstanding. Honestly, I don’t think anyone else could have narrated it better than Cassandra Morris.  Her voice sounds young, perfect to voice the narration of a story told from the point of a young girl. She so beautifully captured Anna’s essence, her naivety and innocence.  I think it is her talented narration, combined with Cameron’s story, that made this audiobook stand out so much for me. I don’t know that I would have the same experience reading the print version of the book.  I don’t know that I would be able to create Anna’s voice in my  head the way it was intended. It would have been what I feared: An adult reading a story from the viewpoint of a young child.  It is for this reason that I encourage you…no implore you…to listen to the audio version of the novel if it strikes your fancy.

I originally planned for this review to be part of my Frightful Friday feature. Here’s a snippet of the publisher’s summary:

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, three hundred pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite — and pouncing on her parents as prey.

Sounds terrifying, right? Except it wasn’t. At least not to me, in the format of an audiobook. Yes, the scene in which she looses her parents is quite terrifying. Save for that particular scene, the rest of the novel is actually quite devoid of terror, actually sometimes rather comical exploration of survival, love, and family.  So…not necessarily the criteria for Frightful Friday.

This novel is based on an actual bear attack in the 1990s. The author, at the time, was a camp counselor nearby.  This novel is based on her memories and subsequent research on the attacks. She obviously fictionalized the account, adding the two children survivors when the actual bear attack had none. It’s obvious that the original bear attack hit close to home for Cameron, for her fictionalized version is full of passion and what I believe would be an honest understanding of how young children would respond to such an attack.

What stood out for me, beyond all that I have already summarized thus far (Anna’s ingenuity, her passion and determination to survive) was the Afterward. The reader/listener gets to see Anna and Stick as adults, just recently understanding what transpired on that island. Knowing that they are okay, that they survived not only the bear attack but growing up without parents, was so rewarding and fulfilling.

I could honestly go on and on about this novel. It is one that still lingers in my heart and soul. A story I will not soon forget. Highly, highly recommended.

6 Comments to "Audiobook Review: The Bear by Claire Cameron"

  1. March 14, 2014 - 10:34 AM | Permalink

    Hello, Audible buy button. You should be on commission, Jenn.

  2. Mitch Kelly's Gravatar Mitch Kelly
    March 14, 2014 - 4:50 PM | Permalink

    Great review! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Trisha's Gravatar Trisha
    Twitter: Trish422
    March 16, 2014 - 9:01 AM | Permalink

    When a child’s voice is done well, it can be a very powerful way to narrate a story – like in Room or even The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I do question the realism of a 5 year old being able to take care of herself (and her brother) for any length of time. Did you ever feel like it was just too unbelievable?

  4. Anita's Gravatar Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks
    March 16, 2014 - 11:54 AM | Permalink

    I love when an audio book is a winner! While I loved Room, and listened to it also, I agree not all books written from a child’s POV work well. Thanks for the rec.

  5. March 31, 2014 - 2:55 PM | Permalink

    Yeah I heard this one was good. Written from the perspective of a child makes me hesitate a bit but since we have a lot of bears in the nearby mountains, I should check it out. Hmm. http://www.thecuecard.com/

Comments are closed.

1 Trackback to "Audiobook Review: The Bear by Claire Cameron"

  1. on March 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM