Debra McKinney is a freelance writer who was part of a team that won journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, for the Anchorage Daily News. She and her husband live in Palmer, Alaska.
Beyond the Bear: How I Learned to Live and Love Again After Being Blinded by a Bearby Dan Bigley, Debra McKinney, Kevin Young
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… See more details below
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 the bear had him on the ground, altering his life forever.
“Upper nose, eyes, forehead anatomy unrecognizable,” the medevac report said.
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.
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I enjoy reading true survival tales. This book was so exciting, I read it straight through. I visited Alaska wilds and witnessed its raw dangerous yet beautiful experience. I had my own encounter with bears, and could really feel how things could have ended different for me. There are tales of fishing to satisfy the sports minded, there are adventures to satisfy the physically fit and adventurous, there is a sensation you are stepping into the untamed beauty Alaska has to offer, and romance to satisfy a woman. I have been recommending this book to my family and friends, and hope many other people experience this terrifically written book.
Dan Bigley's story is incredible and Debra McKinney's writing is amazing--the two together create one phenomenal memoir. I was glued to the book the moment I got it, finishing it in two sittings and only putting it down to sleep. I was breathless to know what happened, and both laughed and cried countless times as I whipped through the pages. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys love stories, survival stories, natures stories, inspirational stories... basically, anybody. There is so much of value "beyond the bear"--it's a book worth pondering, rereading and passing around to friends and family.
This is way more than a tale about a bear attack. The trials and tribulations as Dan deals with his new life situation are inspiring. His refusal to let this devastating injury take him away from the things he enjoyed in life should be motivation to us all. The way Bigley and McKinney weave in the viewpoints of the others involved in the attack, rescue and recovery makes for a riveting read.