Life is often filled with a series of chaotic events that like to throw you off balance, make you wobble. A single misplaced foot can set you down a path of uncertainty. That mini panic attack you have as you realise you’ve misjudged your footing. Yet it fills you with adrenaline that pushes you to reevaluate and try a different tactic, one not so dramatic and final.
Today dear reader I am on the blog tour for Do Not Feed The Bear (Published 8th Aug 2019) By Rachel Elliot. A big thank you to the publishers Tinder Press for sending me a copy to review, always appreciated. And also to the wonderful Anne for the invite, thank you!
About The Author
Rachel Elliott is the author of two novels, Whispers Through A Megaphone (2015, Pushkin Press), which was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016, and Do Not Feed The Bear (2019, Tinder Press). She is also a psychotherapist.
Do Not Feed The Bear
On her forty-seventh birthday, Sydney Smith stands on a rooftop and prepares to jump…
Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she’s never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn’t want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It’s a trip that turns out to be life-changing – and not only for herself.
DO NOT FEED THE BEAR is a book about lives not yet lived, about the kindness of others and about how, when our worlds stop, we find a way to keep on moving.
There’s something intoxicating when you begin reading a book, within seconds you are absorbed into the author’s world. It’s brutal and engrossing to experience every single time. In Do Not Feed The Bear Elliott opens with a disturbing memory of a child seeing a dead body for the first time. She tentatively captures the innocence and curiosity that surrounds 8 year old Sydney. It’s so pure and intriguing that you can’t help reading on.
“Seeing the dead man does not upset me, but Mum expects it to, and this is very useful. To make me feel better, instead of buying a cowboy as promised, she buys me a Playmobil ambulance. I can’t believe it. This is the kind of present you get for Christmas, not just on any old day of the week.”
I loved the narrative style of this book. The reader gets snippets of a memoir by a young child before flowing gracefully back in to third person. We even get to hear from Stuart the dog which is most amusing, it adds a dash of light-hearted humour. It’s an entertaining way of storytelling and done extremely well as it compliments the theme of feeling out of place and lost that stalks the characters like a little grey rain cloud.
I felt great sympathy and sadness for Sydney. Always on the move and running away from her problems instead of facing them, all the while blaming herself for her mother’s death. She has a broken relationship with her father Howard, barely talks to her brother Jason and doesn’t spend much time with her girlfriend Ruth. It’s heartbreaking to read at points as she is reminded of memories from their holiday and the empty void that has consumed their life since the tragedy. Elliott has captured the human condition in all it’s glory; the regret, guilt, happiness, innocence, all the emotions and strange habits that come with being only human.
“Since her mother died, she has spent so much of her life watching her father’s face, studying his responses, looking for the right one, the one she can hold on to as if it were some long-lost treasure, some key to a better life. It’s the behaviour of a child, trying to second-guess, appease, make up for, not a forty-seven-year old woman.”
There is a great deal of unhappiness and regret of lives not yet lived that follows the characters around like a big brown bear with his head hung low. Knowing that they are unhappy, unfulfilled yet refusing to take that much needed leap to see if the grass is indeed greener and fresher on the other side. It was fascinating to watch how each of the characters’ paths crossed and intertwined throughout the story. Each serving a purpose, giving each other a gentle push in a different direction.
“Have you heard of kintsugi? Sydney says.
Ila shakes her head.
Its the old Japanese art of repairing broken or chipped pottery. They use layers of lacquer, often with powdered gold. Instead of hiding the damage, it’s embraced. It’s treated as part of an object’s ongoing beauty.”
I give Do Not Feed The Bear By Rachel Elliott a Four out of Five paw rating.
I admire Elliott’s attention to detail, it’s addictive to read. She wraps you up in her words and gives you an almightily bear hug that leaves you feeling content with the world. You can hear the waves and feel the sand beneath your feet as you dance for the sea’s amusement. A delightful read that shows you how the simple act of kindness can save a life.
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below! Enjoy!
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