Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Title:  Beartown
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1501160761 / 978-1501160769

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger."

Favorite Quote:  "Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn't through love, because love is hard, It makes demands. Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that's easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe - comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy."

This is the third Fredrik Backman book I have read. I loved the first two - Britt-Marie Was Here and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. The two books couldn't have been more different. Britt-Marie is about the title character - an elderly woman who finds the courage and support to start her life anew. The other book deals with the issue of Alzheimer's and dementia. What the book have in common is the emotion they convey and the fact that they made me both laugh and cry.

So, I knew I wanted to read Beartown because of the two books. Nevertheless, I was hesitant. This book is set in around ice hockey, a sport about which I know nothing and a sport in which I have very little interest. However, the opening sentence of the book clearly says that there is more to the story. Because of this and the author's other books, I went ahead. I am so glad I did!

Beartown is a small town, that is slowly fading like so many other small towns. It is overshadowed by the more prosperous communities around it. Jobs and, therefore, people are leaving Beartown. The one thing that still ignites Beartown's passion is ice hockey. The town has an active program ranging from seven year old boys to seniors. Some players historically have made it big and played in the major leagues. Certain players, particularly some on the junior team, now exhibit a talent that could take them all the way. They are the hope and pride of the town.

The beginning of the book is all about hockey and putting the club first, above all else. The beginning also introduces a lot of characters and their perspectives on both Beartown and ice hockey. I read on with hesitation, unsure whether the focus on hockey and the seemingly large number of characters is going to work. Again, because of that opening sentence and the author's other books, I keep going.

Quickly, somewhere along the way, the characters and the background fade, and people emerge. Peter, the general manager of the club, is pulled between the demands of his job and his personal choices. He and his wife Kira are also haunted by ghosts of the past. Sune, the coach of the senior team, knows that his time is ending, and the torch is soon to be passed. David, the coach of the junior team is part coach and part father to these players but always keeps his lesson focused on winning. Kevin is the star athlete. Benji is Kevin's best friend but keeps secrets that not even his best friend knows. Amat is an immigrant, who dreams of playing hockey and making life easier for his single mother. Maya and Ana are teenagers and best friends, seeing each other through everything.

The story remains about ice hockey, but not in the way you might imagine. The story becomes about the question about how far a person, a set of people, or a town will go to put club above all. What will be the price for putting club first? Will that be a price that everyone is willing to pay or will someone stand up for what is right? As with Fredrik Backman's other books, the people and the emotions take over, and I read furiously until the end to find out the answer.

The ending, too, is not a neat package, and because of that, feels as real as the rest of the book. I continue to be a Fredrick Backman fan!

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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