Monday, May 15, 2006

The Bear's Embrace: A True Story of Surviving a Grizzly Bear Attack - Patricia Van Tighem

The Basics: The Bear's Embrace: A True Story of Surviving a Grizzly Bear Attack, Patricia Van Tighem, 2000, 273 pages, hard cover

How I found it: It was recommended by a poster in a book review thread on, a Vancouver hiking forum.

What's it about?: The autobiography of a woman who is attacked by a grizzly bear near Waterton Lakes in southwestern Alberta and survives. The book is more about her struggle to fight infection, facial disfigurement and depression in the years following the attack than it is about the attack itself.

Did I like it?: No. It scared the crap out of me. I am already scared of bears and of debilitating depression so this was not the book for me. I did finish it though it was painful. I kept waiting to see if there was a happy ending; to see if she would rise out of her depression and come to terms with her changed appearance. At the end of the book it seemed as if she had pushed past the depression and was getting on with her life. Then I turned the page and found that some earlier reader had glued in a photocopied newspaper article to the back page of the book. The article was Van Tighem's obituary from 2005. It seems suicide won out in the end and that her husband, who tried so hard to be supportive during the course of the book, ended up divorcing her finally. No happy endings here unfortunately.

Will you like it?: I don't think so, unless you are a masochist. In some ways the book reads a bit like those "Real life tragedy" stories that Readers Digest used to run... like a car wreck you can't look away. If this is your thing, you might like this, but otherwise I think this book will just scare you and make you sad.

But don't take my word for it: Real people reviews, editorial reviews, and a Q and A with the author.

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