Monday, February 4, 2019

Us Against You

Title:  Us Against You
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2018. 448 pages.
ISBN:  1501160796 / 978-1501160790

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Have you ever see a town fall?"

Favorite Quote:  "It's impossible to measure love, but that doesn't stop us coming up with new ways to try. One of the simplest is space:  how much space am I prepared to give the person that you are, so that you can become the person you want to become."

Us Against You is a sequel to Beartown. I loved Beartown and the other two Fredrik Backman books I have read. So, I had high expectations for this one.

This sequel is a continuation of the story of Beartown. I was actually surprised to hear that there was a sequel because the ending of Beartown provided closure. However, since I loved that book, I decided to see where this one goes.

Beartown is the story of a small town committed to ice hockey, a star player who commits a devastating crime against a young woman, a man who is both father and coach, and the question of how 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?

Us Against You picks up on what happens next. It continues with each of the characters in the fallout of the decisions of the first story. It also introduces new characters and new influences. While the first book was about a sport and a town, this book is about the politics and the economics of sports. It is about personal decisions and relationships but also about machinations and maneuvering on a bigger scale. That broader approach and the introduction of politics and economics pull the book away from the intensity of the personal emotional connection of the first book.

The story is also told in short bursts about the individual characters. The book throughout manages to convey an impending sense of doom. You know something bad is coming. You know it will be the result of people picking sides and getting more and more ingrained in their points of view. "No one bows their heads around here, for the simple reason that many of our worst deeds are the result of us never wanting to admit that we're wrong. The greater the mistake and the worse the consequences, the more pride we stand to lose if we back down. So no one does."

That sense of foreshadowing continues from almost the entire book. The staccato beat of the book continues for the entire book. A devastating event does finally come, but very late into the book. By that time, the wait has gone on for a little too long. The event is sad and tragic, but in a way apart from the central, personal story of the first book. It comes across as collateral damage from the broader political strife of the book; this is perhaps the true tragedy of the book. The personal, individual catastrophic impact of decisions are subsumed in the broader political discussions getting the headlines.

In that way, the book mirrors the political and economic dialogue taking place all over the world. "It's so easy to get people to hate each other. That's what makes love so impossible to understand. Hate is so simple that it always ought to win. It's an uneven fight."

In some ways, this book is completely not what I expected. The other Frederick Backman books have been so focused on the emotions of individual stories that completely envelop you into the tale. This one still has moments in which it speaks to me, just less so than the others.

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

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