Fiction Book Reviews

Literary Fiction | Do Not Feed the Bear | Rachel Elliott

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I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts today on Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliott.

Book cover for Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliott

Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliott is published by Tinder Press and is available to purchase in digital, hardcover and audiobook formats.  The paperback is due to be published 30th April 2020.

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.


I enjoyed the pace of this story and the connections that become evident as the plot unfolds.  The intrigue kept me turning those pages – I wanted to find out why the family holiday ended abruptly when Sydney was 6 and what was behind the fracturing of the family.

I think most people will have heard of Parkour but I had no idea how structured and disciplined it was.  The philosophy behind it fascinated me – I hadn’t thought about it as a strategy to help the freerunner to overcome emotional health.  I love it when I learn something new from reading!

Rachel Elliott uses her experiences to great effect.  I thought the observations on life were spot on with snippets of wisdom that made me stop and reflect.  I lost my parents in my late teens and learned early that grief is selfish but I hadn’t thought of looking at loss like this … whatever the loss we experience in our lives we always think it’s the other person we miss rather than ourselves.  The truth is that we miss the person we were before the loss.  And we do.

I loved this:

Indecision is addictive.  You get to travel across the board without making a move.

There is humour too.  Stuart’s narration (the Schaefer’s family dog) was entertaining as were the handbook titles.  I lost a few hours thinking up a few of my own.

Sydney, Ruth, Howard, Belle, Maria and Jon all affected me in some way (not always positively!).  A great cast of characters to move the plot to its conclusion and to leave me feeling that all was as it should be.

I have to be honest and say this story affected me deeply.  I loved it.  Highly recommended.

Rachel Elliott is a writer and psychotherapist. Her first novel, Whispers Through a Megaphone, was published in 2015 and was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016. Her second novel, Do Not Feed the Bear, has just been published by Tinder Press. She is currently working on her third novel.

I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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