Anna and Stick are camping with their parents in Algonquin Park, in three thousand square miles of wilderness. It’s the perfect family trip. But then Anna awakes in the night to the sound of something moving in the shadows. Her father is terrified. Her mother is screaming. Then, silence.
I was approached by the lovely people at Random House to read and review this new novel by Claire Cameron. Longlisted for the Bailey’s women’s prize for fiction, this novel has received great reviews with descriptions such as ‘haunting, moving and unforgettable’.
This novel is one that will stick with you because of it’s shocking plot. The reader is thrown into action early on with the protagonist Anna, and her brother Stick, being thrown into a cooler box by their father to hide. It is made apparent to the reader that the bear attack is happening but, at just five years old, Anna is very confused and scared about what is going on around her. This confusion makes the opening scene even more powerful. Soon things go quiet and, after what seems like an age of hiding, Anna and her brother leave the confinement of their hiding space. There is a heart wrenching moment when Anna spots her mother’s foot in the bushes. Edging closer, Anna realises that something is not quite right.
‘The blood is on her neck and in her shirt and it is ripped and she looks like not Mummy but a doll.’
In a poignant display of naivety, Stick offers his dying mother a bandaid. It is moments like these that make the reader remember how young these children are and the horrific events they are having to deal with. Battling hunger and the elements to stay alive, the children embark on a journey out of the wilderness.
Claire Cameron writes the story through the voice of five-year-old Anna. Although this was a very clever move, I sometimes found the constant stream of jumbled dialogue exhausting to read. It took a while to get used to and, on occasion, took away from the action unfolding. Undoubtedly, the beginning of this novel is five star but I found my interest dwindling towards the middle section of this book. The plot for me lacked suspense with the chapter names giving away the direction of the story.
However, for it’s shocking opening alone this book is certainly worth a read and I for one will be refraining from any camping holidays in the near future!