30 Authors in 30 Days: Marissa Stapley on The Bear by Claire Cameron


30authors30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event takes place during September and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs. There are also some great prizes provided by GoneReading.com and BookJigs. Follow this link to The Book Wheel to enter.

 For the full schedule of participating authors and bloggers, visit The Book Wheel or join the Facebook group. You can also follow along on Twitter with the #30Authors hashtag!

I am so excited to be taking part in this event. It’s all about spreading the literary love. And I’m super excited to be hosting fellow Canadian Marissa Stapley discussing The Bear by Claire Cameron.

Author Marissa Stapley on The Bear by Claire Cameron

The Bear by Claire CameronClaire Cameron’s novel The Bear (Little Brown & Company; Random House) explores human instinct, a topic I’m very interested in. In my novel, Mating for Life, short epigraphs at the start of each chapter detail the mating habits of certain animals. I use these epigraphs to draw connections between the instincts of people and the instincts of the animals we encounter. It’s easy to forget this, but we’re all connected to the natural world. I’m always asking myself whether we do the things we do because we want to, or because we’re hardwired to do them. I don’t have an answer, and that’s why I write.

Specifically, Cameron explores the instinct to survive—and our instinctive desire for the people we love to survive—in her novel.  It’s about a family (parents and two children, aged five and two) who go camping in Algonquin Park, in northern Ontario. Near the beginning of the novel, the parents are attacked and killed by a rogue male black bear; the children are left to fend for themselves.

In her author’s note, Cameron explains that the attack in the story is based on a true event: when she was working as a guide in Algonquin Park in the 1990s, a black bear attacked a campsite and killed two people. As humans, we seek explanations when things like this happen—another instinct, perhaps—but there was never any explanation of why this bear attacked. No food had been left around the campsite. The bear did not appear to have been provoked.

That there is a real event at its root is one of the reasons I found The Bear so compelling. Cameron reimagined an event that haunted her—adding in the children—in order to give new life, and perhaps even closure, to what she was never able to make sense of. I think that’s a beautiful reason to write, and so it’s a beautiful book to read.

Something else that sets The Bear apart is that it’s written from the perspective of Anna, the five-year-old in the family.  Unlike adults, who develop ways to conceal their true nature, children are all instinct, all the time. The perspective of Anna is sometimes funny and cute, but it’s also painfully stark and alarmingly real; Cameron doesn’t shy away from the realities of a story like this. But there is also inspiration here: Anna works so hard to survive. At one point, she ruminates on something her mother once told her about how, if a person is trying to save someone they love, they will develop super powers— like the ability to move a car off of a trapped person, for example. Essentially, Anna develops super powers, too. She is a hero in the truest sense of the word, finding strength in herself, and the ability to survive against all odds.

Anna’s story also reveals the darkness we have at our core, a darkness we must all work to push aside.  Just like that bear, we all have a rogue side. Humans also do things that are impossible to explain. I think it’s rare for a book that is essentially a suspenseful page-turner to plumb such depths about human nature in the process. That’s why I’ve been unable to forget it, and why I chose to share it with all of you.

Interested in The Bear? Here’s how you can connect with Claire Cameron :

And to learn more about about Marissa Stapley and her brilliant new novel Mating for Life:


  1. 30 Authors in 30 Days is a great idea! And this one was especially fun for me to read since I read The Bear a while ago, and also loved it. I liked that she tied it in with the idea of instincts. I hadn’t thought about it in that way before. Thanks for this one!

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