by Claire Cameron
Inspired by a fatal 1991 bear attack on a couple camping on an island in Ontario's Algonquin Park, Cameron's novel of fear and survival recounts the fictional escape from a similar attack of five-year-old Anna and her two-year-old brother, Alex (nicknamed "Stick" for his sticky fingers). Anna's narrative begins midattack after her father has tossed her and her brother into the storage chest they call "Coleman." Squished in the darkness between Stick and her teddy bear, Anna sees a black furry animal through a crack, but all she can picture is her next-door neighbor's dog Snoopy. In daylight, she climbs out of Coleman to discover what remains of her father and to catch her mother's last words urging her to put her brother in the canoe and paddle away. What follows is a vividly portrayed wilderness ordeal (poison ivy, hunger, rain, isolation) juxtaposed with glimpses of the inner resources young Anna draws upon (imagination, family, memory, hope), all seen through the eyes of a child who can express, if not entirely understand, her own resentment and protectiveness of her brother, her love and longing for her parents, her fear and empathy for the predator, and her determination to persevere. Upping the emotional ante, Cameron shows the children's rescue, Anna's encounter in a hospital with a child psychologist, and, years later, her return to the island with Alex as adults. Intensity, as well as Anna's voice, make reading this book a challenging but ultimately uplifting experience.
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