So…I finished The Bear a few days ago, and I’m STILL not sure whether I liked it or not. Well, I did enjoy it, but I guess I’m wondering if I can classify it as A Great Book. I’m leaning toward yes, because I can’t really find many faults with it.
First of all, the first 40 pages or so show the bear attack. Everyone in our book club, including me, had a hard time with this section. Emails were flying around to the effect of “I can’t do this anymore, it’s too scary, I quit this book.” It was rough. It really wasn’t graphic at all, but just the thought of two young children being in that situation gives me the shivers, and it’s really difficult to hear it from the POV of a kid who really doesn’t understand what’s happening. I know that I personally kept imagining my littlest nephew and what he would do in that situation. But, if you can get past that section (my mother couldn’t, she stopped about 7 pages in), it does get really good and interesting and stops scaring the shit out of you. Mostly.
The interesting thing about The Bear is that not too much actually happened in the story, after the initial bear attack. BUT, I think that the story being pretty uneventful worked because of the child’s POV. If the book had been about an adult who’d fled the island after the attack, he’d be using his cell to call for help and then lying on the rocks getting a tan and listening to his Ipod, and that would be the end of the story. With a kid being the POV character, you get the heart-in-your-throat feeling every time she does anything at all: “Don’t eat the berries, you don’t EVER eat berries!!” “Where’s the little boy, what if he fell in the water and drowned???” Etc.
I do think that the child’s POV was well done. Of course, the downside to having a kid POV is that sometimes it’s very difficult to understand the setting and what’s happening because its described by a little girl who often goes off into tangents about Barbies. It made it difficult in some places to understand what was happening in some places. I think that’s also why this extremely short book took me 2 days to finish. I really had to analyze and reread some sections to figure out what the hell was going on.
Whatever it’s faults, though, this book definitely makes me want to discuss it really really badly (geez, book club is still almost a month away!!), so maybe that answers my original questions about whether it’s A Great Book. I’m going to wrap up this super long review with just a couple of thoughts I have that I can’t wait till book club to get out:
I don’t understand exactly what happened during the bear attack that first night. Obviously the mother was attacked first, and her neck was broken. But she didn’t seem to be all that mangled (except possibly she was missing a leg). So…if not eating the mother, what was the bear doing while the father had time to run and get the kids and put them in the cooler? And after THAT, Anna heard her father talking, having a quiet conversation. And then…it was daylight. When exactly did the father get eaten and his leg ripped off, and why didn’t Anna hear him screaming? Did she just block it out (plausible since we find out later that she seems to have blocked out that she knew that the father was “in two pieces”)? Michelle has a really interesting theory about this, that the father was actually the bear, and was the one to kill the mother. I will let her explain that to you, but I will just say that I think it completely fits, EXCEPT that the father GOT HIS LEG RIPPED OFF and you just can’t get around that.
While sleeping in the “tent” she made, that first night alone, I don’t think she saw the bear. I think the growling she heard was her brother’s snoring, and the “bear” she saw was the tree stumps. This shows that she’s even more of an unreliable narrator than we already knew, considering that she’s a child.