Beyond the Bear: How I Learned to Live and Love Again After Being Blinded by a Bear
By Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney



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1) So fascinated I was with Bigley’s experience, I contacted him June 15, 2014 through his website at: and asked what questions people usually ask of him? His response:
How do you see the world now that you don’t see any more?
What is it like for you to go fishing now?
What is it like to be a blind dad?
What do you miss the most about having sight? Do you still see when you dream?
Is Amber as amazing as she is in the book?
How has this event changed and shaped your life?

2) I also learned he is available for book club presentations, and Q & A sessions via Skype. Rates very.

3) Other ways to contact Bigley: Bear and

4) To contact Debra McKinney, an award-winning and Pulitzer Prize team writer for the Anchorage Daily News:

And now for discussion...

1) How many of you have been to Alaska and experienced the wilderness? Did your experience lend itself to better understanding Bigley’s encounter? Have you seen bears interacting with salmon runs? Have you ever come across a bear in the wilderness?

2) Do you recall hearing the news as it was reported about Bigley’s mauling on July 14, 2003? If so, do you remember what was said at the time, how you felt, what was reported after?

3) Bigley and McKinney give the reader several angles to help describe the damage to Bigley’s face. (Prologue – ch 7) The first responder’s: Colonel Frank Valentine, the EMT’s , Dr. Kathleen McCue’s, “Not compatible with life”, Dr. James Kallman and his surgical staff. After reading them all, what most surprised you about Bigley’s reaction throughout?

4) Bigley’s experience brought out the opinions of many “armchair quarterbacks” (ch 8) on how he got mauled and what he could have done to prevent it. Several books and other persons mauled are mentioned, for example: Scott McMillions (author of “Mark of the Grizzly” about victim, Barrie Gilbert, Pg 71) and Craig Medred (Pg. 73). Bigley mentions several factors in the book:
a. Fishermen discard 114,000 lbs (57 tons) of blood, guts, and carcasses
b. Cleaning stations
c. Beach erosion due to human traffic that kills high grasses to help hide the fishermen
d. Construction of boardwalks, guard rails, steps to keep it at bay but only allows more human traffic
Can you think of others?

5) Bigley states that, for him, the most “profound impact” was from Lee Hagmeier, who was also blinded by a bear and called to his side by his mother. Hagmeier even helped the family deal with Bigley’s blindness by telling them “Dan still has vision. He just can’t see.” (Pg 97) And later for Bigley at his wedding (Pg. 192). Talk about how important it is to have someone like this during a crisis or recovery.

6) Throughout “Beyond the Bear” Bigley’s focus is on getting well and not letting anyone down. (Ex: pg. 143 “The old Dan was gone. The new one was a work in progress. I’d fought for this second chance and wasn’t about to squander it.”) On pg. 140 he quotes a saying, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you deal with it.” He then goes on to state the many things he is grateful to. His positive attitude shines throughout, even when he returns to The Sanctuary where the mauling occurred (Pg 164) or went back to school (Pg. 173). Talk about the many other ways Bigley moved forward instead of getting caught up in the tragic past.

7) On blindness, Bigley writes (Pg 202) “Blindness is a callous teacher, with pain and embarrassment as powerful motivators. I’m not a model student in that regard...On the other hand, I’ve earned a black belt in patience…(Pg. 203) Blindness has not only restructured my relationship with time, it’s restructured my perception of space and all that resides within it….” Also on pg. 203, he talks about his relationship with his face: “is a troubled one…” Talk about all the insights Bigley gives here,how they affect you and how others can learn from him.

8) Bigley admits to feeling bitterness toward one of his nurses when he runs into her at a hotel and she called him an “inspiration”. (Pg 206). Can you understand why he felt this way given his explanation?

9) How did reading "Beyond the Bear" affect you? For me personally, I was deeply moved by Bigley’s experience and the way he and McKinney put it all together in his book. I highly recommend reading it, so much so, that I wrote the following review and posted it to Goodreads and

5 stars “Beyond….Way Beyond” by Elaine G

I fully expected to read a real tale of horror, having heard of Bigley's attack in the news, but am thoroughly enamored with the way it is told here. The tale is more hopeful than horrid, more inspiring then sad. McKinney has done a fabulous small endeavor considering what transpired. I also fully expected to have Kleenex in hand throughout, which I did, except it was to wipe away tears of joy from Bigley's own. Way to go, both of you. Bigley, your spirit is amazing, and McKinney, you let it shine. I often forgot who did the actual writing! PS I started reading this Easter morning, 2014 and finished by 2:10 PM. Could not put it down…

Discussion questions compiled by:
Elaine Gallant, June 26, 2014
West Maui Book Club