Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Beyond the Bear by Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney

Title: Beyond the Bear: How I Learned to Live and Love Again after Being Blinded by a Bear
Author: Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Lyons Press
Publish Date: April 2, 2013
Source: Borrowed from a friend

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From "A 25-year-old backcountry wanderer, a man happiest exploring wild places with his dog, Dan Bigley woke up one midsummer morning to a day full of promise. Before it was over, after a stellar day of salmon fishing along Alaska’s Kenai and Russian rivers, a grizzly came tearing around a corner in the trail. Dan barely had time for “bear charging” to register before it had him on the ground, altering his life forever.

“Upper nose, eyes, forehead anatomy unrecognizable,” as the medevac report put it.

Until then, one thing after another had fallen into place in Dan’s life. He had a job he loved taking troubled kids on outdoor excursions. He had just bought a cabin high in the Chugach Mountains with a view that went on forever. He was newly in love. After a year of being intrigued by a woman named Amber, they had just spent their first night together. All of this was shattered by the mauling that nearly killed him, that left him blind and disfigured.

Facing paralyzing pain and inconceivable loss, Dan was in no shape to be in a relationship. He and Amber let each other go. Five surgeries later, partway into his long healing journey, they found their way back to each other. The couple’s unforgettable story is one of courage, tenacious will, and the power of love to lead the way out of darkness. Dan Bigley’s triumph over tragedy is a testament to the ability of the human spirit to overcome physical and emotional devastation, to choose not just to live, but to live fully."

My Two Cents:

I went to Alaska fairly recently and before I went I had a ton of people tease me about getting eaten by a bear. One of my co-workers lent me this book after I had gone to Alaska and I have to say that I was very happy that I read this book after I went on my trip. I would have been absolutely terrified! This book is the memoir of Dan Bigley, a gentleman who was attacked by a bear and was lucky to be alive afterwards. I love memoirs that show courage in the face of adversity and this book definitely fits that bill.

This is a story of strength and resilience. Bigley was an avid outdoorsman and fisher so to have his life changed so much was difficult. He was blinded by the bear and basically had to relearn a lot of different skills in order to be able to still be independent. This book explores his entire journey from just before he was attacked to his life afterward. I loved following his journey.

This book also has a really beautiful love story in it. Just before he is attacked by a bear, he begins dating Amber, a woman who seems to be perfectly cut out for living in the beautiful but harsh Alaskan wilderness. They hadn't been dating all that long and when Bigley gets attacked, I'm sure there's a lot of women who wouldn't want to have to deal with all of the fallout but Amber steps up to the plate and is there 100% for Dan. I really liked this love story a lot.

The writing of the book was pretty good. While the book sometimes takes some jogs away from the action of the story, overall this book moves pretty fast. I recommend this book if you're looking for an exciting memoir and a true survivor story.



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