Beyond the Bear

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“This book is surprising in so many ways – heartfelt, funny, buoyant, tragic and triumphant – that after awhile I wanted to do nothing else but read it and be inspired and enthralled. And so I was.”

Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak and Visions of a Wild America

“Combine a man shaped by an extraordinary experience with a writer adept at weaving the threads of his story and the result is a stunningly powerful book. Beyond the Bear may compel you to worry less about all the bad things that could happen in life and focus instead on embracing its possibilities. You might as well buy extra copies for you will soon want to give others the gift of this insightful and riveting read.”

Jill Fredston, author of Rowing to Latitude and Snowstruck

“Beyond the Bear delivers in gut-wrenching detail the harrowing account of one of the most horrific bear attacks in recent Alaskan memory, but the book is so much more than a bear mauling. Beyond the Bear is a powerful love story and an unforgettable tale of hope and resilience, a triumph of the human spirit in the darkest of hours. Dan Bigley’s courage and heart take us all beyond the bear and along the way we all learn to see the world in a new and beautiful light.”

Don Rearden, award-winning author of The Raven’s Gift

Beyond the Bear – by Dan Bigley & Debra McKinney

Book Summary

On July 14, 2003, I was wrapping up a stellar day of salmon fishing at Alaska’s Russian River when, moments from the safety of the car, a grizzly came tearing around a corner in the trail so fast it had to dip its shoulder to make the turn. I barely had time for “bear charging” to register before the bear had me on the ground. Dragged facedown over rocks and roots, fingers locked around the back of my neck, elbows tucked in tight, I tried to play dead. Just when I thought the bear was done, it flipped me over and bit across my face. The person I’d been the first 25 years of my life died that instant.
“Upper nose, eyes, forehead anatomy unrecognizable,” is how the medevac report put it.
Weeks later, in an intensive care unit, I emerged from a drug-induced coma and into an alien body and an even more alien world. I have vague memories of being told I was blind. After fighting for my life so hard, I didn’t have the energy for a big emotional reaction. That would come later, and it would come in many different forms. Among all I lost was my new girlfriend. I’d been interested in her for about a year, and we’d finally connected — the night before I was mauled.
Blind and disfigured, with a long, painful journey of healing ahead of me, I was in no shape to be in a relationship. We came to the only logical conclusion we could come to, to set each other free. But could we? “Beyond the Bear” is many stories, a survival story among them. But in the aftermath of my mauling, dealing with the physical and emotion devastation, came the realization that letting myself become a bitter man had far more potential to ruin my life than being blinded by a bear.

About the Authors

Dan Bigley

Dan Bigley

Before the bear, with a degree in natural history from Arizona‚’s Prescott College, I’d landed the most challenging and rewarding job I’d ever had, taking severely emotionally disturbed children on recreational outings for Alaska Children’s Services. After the bear, I got a master’s degree in social work from the University of Alaska-Anchorage. I’m now director of therapeutic foster care for Denali Family Services, the largest therapeutic foster-care provider in the state. My wife, Amber Takavitz Bigley, and our two young children, Alden and Acacia, live in Anchorage, Alaska.

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Debra McKinney

Debra McKinney

Before “Beyond the Bear,” Debra was a long-time writer at the Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Alaska. In 1994, she and photographer Fran Durner won the national $10,000 Dart Award for Excellence in Reporting on Victims of Violence. Debra was part of a team of reporters that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for the Anchorage Daily News. She and her husband, Paul Morley, live on Lazy Mountain near Palmer, Alaska.

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