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Beartown
     

Beartown

5.0 9
by Fredrik Backman
 

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New York Times bestseller • The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People

“Backman is a

Overview

New York Times bestseller • The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People

“Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic....There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor....A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit.” —Kirkus Reviews

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/27/2017
The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove tells a poignant story of a hockey town paralyzed by scandal. Jobs are disappearing and Beartown is slowly dying, so for its citizens, hockey is everything. Backman asks, “Why does everyone care about hockey? Because hockey tells stories.” This is the story not just of hockey, but of a 15-year-old named Maya Andersson, whose father, Peter, the general manager of the hockey club, loves hockey, but loves his family more. Seventeen-year-old Kevin Erdahl is the star of Beartown, with a chance to go professional. One night, after a huge win, Maya goes to a raucous party at Kevin’s house and is thrilled at his attention, but things get out of hand, and what takes place changes Beartown forever. Lest readers think hockey is the star here, it’s Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on an insular town. While the story is dark at times, love, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and family shine through, ultimately offering hope and even redemption. Backman veers close to the saccharine, but readers may be too spellbound to notice. (Apr.)
Booklist
"The sentimentally savvy Backman (A Man Called Ove, 2014) takes a sobering and solemn look at the ways alienation and acceptance, ethics and emotions nearly destroy a small town and young people."
The Oprah Magazine O
"[A] slow burn of a novel about a community that pours all its hopes into a youth hockey team. Think Friday Night Lights for Swedes."
The New York Times Book Review
"As popular Swedish exports go, Backman is up there with Abba and Stieg Larssson."
Green Valley News (Arizona)
"Backman is the Dickens of our age, and though you'll cry, your heart is safe in his hands."
Library Journal
04/01/2017
Backman (Britt Marie Was Here) expands his quirky character base in his latest novel, which once again takes place in a remote Swedish town. Bjornstad, or Beartown, is an ice hockey town like many small American communities are football towns: no bigger event occurs than home games, where the good cheer of the supporting fans, former players, and sponsors, known as "The Pack," sometimes flares into violence against rivals. As the local youth team snags a possible chance at winning a junior championship, the narrative follows a cross-section of citizens. In their struggles with modern life, these dozen or so individuals face challenges, make decisions, and frequently surprise the reader. Backman's sketchy style always leaves his audience wanting more explanation, but he successfully draws a community portrait that manages to be both unique and universal. There is enough hockey action to satisfy sports fans and plenty of material for group discussion. VERDICT Another solid offering from best-selling Swedish author Backman, with many parallels for American readers and small towns everywhere. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/16.]—Mary K. Bird-Guilliams, Chicago
Kirkus Reviews
2017-02-21
In Beartown, where the people are as "tough as the forest, as hard as the ice," the star player on the beloved hockey team is accused of rape, and the town turns upon itself.Swedish novelist Backman's (A Man Called Ove, 2014, etc.) story quickly becomes a rich exploration of the culture of hockey, a sport whose acolytes see it as a violent liturgy on ice. Beartown explodes after rape charges are brought against the talented Kevin, son of privilege and influence, who's nearly untouchable because of his transcendent talent. The victim is Maya, the teenage daughter of the hockey club's much-admired general manager, Peter, another Beartown golden boy, a hockey star who made it to the NHL. Peter was lured home to bring winning hockey back to Beartown. Now, after years of despair, the local club is on the cusp of a championship, but not without Kevin. Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic. Despite his love for hockey, where fights are part of the game, Peter hates violence. Kira, his wife, is an attorney with an aggressive, take-no-prisoners demeanor. Minor characters include Sune, "the man who has been coach of Beartown's A-team since Peter was a boy," whom the sponsors now want fired. There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor: the club president's table manners are so crude "you can't help wondering if he's actually misunderstood the whole concept of eating." Like Friday Night Lights, this is about more than youth sports; it's part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman's latest will resonate a long time.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781501160769
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
04/25/2017
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
177
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Beartown


  • Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang.

    It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semifinal of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.

    Bang. Bang. Bang-bang-bang.

    The town wakes early, like it does every day; small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world. The rows of cars in the parking lot outside the factory are already covered with snow; people are standing in silent lines with their eyes half-open and their minds half-closed, waiting for their electronic punch cards to verify their existence to the clocking-in machine. They stamp the slush off their boots with autopilot eyes and answering-machine voices while they wait for their drug of choice—caffeine or nicotine or sugar—to kick in and render their bodies at least tolerably functional until the first break.

    Out on the road the commuters set off for bigger towns beyond the forest; their gloves slam against heating vents and their curses are the sort you only think of uttering when you’re drunk, dying, or sitting in a far-too-cold Peugeot far too early in the morning.

    *  *  *

    If they keep quiet they can hear it in the distance: Bang-bang-bang. Bang. Bang.

    *  *  *

    Maya wakes up and stays in bed, playing her guitar. The walls of her room are covered in a mixture of pencil drawings and tickets she’s saved from concerts she’s been to in cities far from here. Nowhere near as many as she would have liked, but considerably more than her parents actually consented to. She loves everything about her guitar—its weight against her body, the way the wood responds when her fingertips tap it, the strings that cut hard against her skin. The simple notes, the gentle riffs—it’s all a wonderful game to her. She’s fifteen years old and has already fallen in love many times, but her guitar will always be her first love. It’s helped her to put up with living in this town, to deal with being the daughter of the general manager of an ice hockey team in the forest.

    She hates hockey but understands her father’s love for it; the sport is just a different instrument from hers. Her mom sometimes whispers in her daughter’s ear: “Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.” Her mom loves a man who loves a place that loves a game. This is a hockey town, and there are plenty of things you can say about those, but at least they’re predictable. You know what to expect if you live here. Day after day after day.

    Bang.

    Beartown isn’t close to anything. Even on a map the place looks unnatural. “As if a drunk giant tried to piss his name in the snow,” some might say. “As if nature and man were fighting a tug-of-war for space,” more high-minded souls might suggest. Either way, the town is losing. It has been a very long time since it won at anything. More jobs disappear each year, and with them the people, and the forest devours one or two more abandoned houses each season. Back in the days when there were still things to boast about, the city council erected a sign beside the road at the entrance to the town with the sort of slogan that was popular at the time: “Beartown—Leaves You Wanting More!” The wind and snow took a few years to wipe out the word “More.” Sometimes the entire community feels like a philosophical experiment: If a town falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it matter at all?

    To answer that question you need to walk a few hundred yards down toward the lake. The building you see there doesn’t look like much, but it’s an ice rink, built by factory workers four generations ago, men who worked six days a week and needed something to look forward to on the seventh. All the love this town could thaw out was passed down and still seems to end up devoted to the game: ice and boards, red and blue lines, sticks and pucks and every ounce of determination and power in young bodies hurtling at full speed into the corners in the hunt for those pucks. The stands are packed every weekend, year after year, even though the team’s achievements have collapsed in line with the town’s economy. And perhaps that’s why—because everyone hopes that when the team’s fortunes improve again, the rest of the town will get pulled up with it.

    Which is why places like this always have to pin their hopes for the future on young people. They’re the only ones who don’t remember that things actually used to be better. That can be a blessing. So they’ve coached their junior team with the same values their forebears used to construct their community: work hard, take the knocks, don’t complain, keep your mouth shut, and show the bastards in the big cities where we’re from. There’s not much worthy of note around here. But anyone who’s been here knows that it’s a hockey town.

    Bang.

    Amat will soon turn sixteen. His room is so tiny that if it had been in a larger apartment in a well-to-do neighborhood in a big city, it would barely have registered as a closet. The walls are completely covered with posters of NHL players, with two exceptions. One is a photograph of himself aged seven, wearing gloves that are too big for him and with his helmet halfway down his forehead, the smallest of all the boys on the ice. The other is a sheet of white paper on which his mother has written parts of a prayer. When Amat was born, she lay with him on her chest in a narrow bed in a little hospital on the other side of the planet, no one but them in the whole world. A nurse had whispered the prayer in his mother’s ear back then—it is said to have been written on the wall above Mother Teresa’s bed—and the nurse hoped it would give the solitary woman strength and hope. Almost sixteen years later, the scrap of paper is still hanging on her son’s wall, the words mixed up, but she wrote them down as well as she could remember them:

    If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway.

    All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.

    Amat sleeps with his skates by his bed every night. “Must have been one hell of a birth for your poor mother, you being born with those on,” the caretaker at the rink often jokes. He’s offered to let the boy keep them in a locker in the team’s storeroom, but Amat likes carrying them there and back. Wants to keep them close.

    Amat has never been as tall as the other players, has never been as muscular as them, has never shot as hard. But no one in the town can catch him. No one on any team he’s encountered so far has been as fast as him. He can’t explain it; he assumes it’s a bit like when people look at a violin and some of them just see a load of wood and screws where others see music. Skates have never felt odd to him. On the contrary, when he sticks his feet in a pair of normal shoes he feels like a sailor stepping ashore.

    The final lines his mother wrote on the sheet of paper on his wall read as follows:

    What you create, others can destroy. Create anyway. Because in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and anyone else anyway.

    Immediately below that, written in red crayon in the determined handwriting of a primary school student, it says:

    They say Im to little to play. Become good player any way!

    Bang.

    Once upon a time, Beartown Ice Hockey’s A-team—one step above the juniors—was second-best in the top division in the country. That was more than two decades and three divisions ago, but tomorrow Beartown will be playing against the best once more. So how important can a junior game be? How much can a town care about the semifinal a bunch of teenagers are playing in a minor-league tournament? Not so much, of course. If it weren’t this particular dot on the map.

    A couple of hundred yards south of the road sign lies “the Heights,” a small cluster of expensive houses with views across the lake. The people who live in them own supermarkets, run factories, or commute to better jobs in bigger towns where their colleagues at staff parties wonder, wide-eyed: “Beartown? How can you possibly live that far out in the forest?” They reply something about hunting and fishing, proximity to nature, but these days almost everyone is asking themselves if it is actually possible. Living here any longer. Asking themselves if there’s anything left, apart from property values that seem to fall as rapidly as the temperature.

    *  *  *

    Then they wake up to the sound of a bang. And they smile.

  • Meet the Author

    Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Beartown is his latest novel.

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    Beartown 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
    Anonymous 22 days ago
    Each book by this author is better than the last. Really had to read this as slow as I could since it will be a while to the next one.
    Anonymous 13 days ago
    This book was so good the characters are still in my mind they are like family. This is what a book should do take you away to a place you never been and make you want to stay there.
    Anonymous 10 days ago
    Not as sweet as a man called ove. Tense and thought provoking. Read it.
    JamesJohnCudneyIV 15 days ago
    4.5 out of 5 stars to Beartown, a 2016 contemporary novel by Fredrik Backman. Although the book had a bit of a difficult start for me, it developed into an emotionally-charged hot bed, triggering anger and frustration over so many things about the human race… and I’m quite glad I read it and enjoyed it. But wow… I haven’t a visceral emotional reaction to words like this in a very long time. Why This Book Beartown began showing up on a few of my Goodreads’ friends book lists earlier this year, intriguing my interest. I read the overview and saw many comments that “although the premise is all about a junior hockey team, it’s so much more.” I had a hard time believing that to be true, but thought it might be worth a chance if I could get it from NetGalley. And then I was approved to read it in early April. It took me a few weeks to find the right time in my reading schedule, but it all fell into place last week when I finally took on the book. Overview of Story Beartown is a very small town in the middle of a forest far away from everywhere else. It was once bigger and stronger, but the economy has pushed it further and further down a hole — to the point where all they have left is the possibility of a good junior hockey team in the future. Everyone in the town gets involved to some degree, either playing, supporting or raising the players who range from 13 to 17 years old. It’s the place where agents sometimes go to find the next great star of the professional leagues. But the lack of resources and funding has led to a bitter passion among the residents, who seem to stop at almost nothing to ensure their kids have an opportunity to win their games. Some of the residents are fair and honest. Some are rude and malicious. It’s a typical American sports town, breeding team camaraderie, fueled in some cases by hatred and anger, but in a few others, promoting acceptance and tolerance. Each of the key team members (8 to 10) has a personal story. Each of the parents and coaches has a vision. Rivalries and favoritism shine all around. And with each passing game, the school must decide what side of the coin they’re on… supporting the team and accepting hockey will always comes first, before education, or fighting back to keep a fair balance. But when someone is attacked, sides must be taken within the school, the team, the hockey league and the town. It’s a story about hope, control, loss, jealousy, anger, and desire. It’s about parenting styles. It’s about looking the other way for the sake of long-term goals, despite what you may be letting someone get away with in the short term. It’s about how people treat one another. And in so many cases, it is not the way it should be. Approach & Style Beartown is told by an omniscient narrator who can look into any character’s head at any moment. It’s told in the present tense with a few small reflections on the past. Point of view changes and hops around within chapters, defined by a few spaces between paragraphs. It’s mostly short sentence structure and paragraphs. Told the way people speak. Strengths 1. I am not a big sports fan. I played on a soccer and baseball team when I was younger. And I worked for a sports arena for nearly 20 years. But I have never been interested in hockey. And while the story is too focused in the beginning on the pertinent parts of the sport and rules, it generally has a very good approach to building a fever for the team among us readers. When an author can do
    calla5bash 4 hours ago
    So many ethical issues. So many of life's lessons to learn. Absolutely a must read for all ages. Read it and weep. Read it and smile. Read it and you will become a better person - if you just listen. I hope those of all ages enjoy as much as I did. You continue to get better with each book. Each very different but each is a must read! Mr. Bachman's writings are worthy of every accolade they will every receive. Buy his books, cherish them and pass them down to all you love.
    bbb57 2 days ago
    Okay, it's final. This is the best living author. Period. I dare you to compare him to ANYONE.
    Bosh 3 days ago
    Vintage Backman. What can I say? This novel was written by Fredrik Backman. Enough said. A wonderful and riveting story of a struggling town that places its future on its high school hockey team. This book is beautifully written, but unlike his other books, does not contain curmudgeonly characters. Nevertheless, the characters are fully developed and the story is gripping. Although it’s only May, this might be my top read for 2017. Backman just doesn’t disappoint.
    GratefulGrandma 7 days ago
    This book is a bit different from others by Fredrik Backman, there is no likeable curmudgeon as the focus of this story, it is about a town and the inhabitants. Beartown is a small, dying town that doesn't have much except their love of hockey. This simple fact drives this story. The junior team is in the country's semi-finals for the 17 year old division. When they win this game, there is a wild party in which a crime is committed. The story continues around the belief of the town that the star of the team, could not possibly have done what he is accused of. There are several families that are central to this story and they each have a different dynamic, which of course affects how the children act. There is bullying and teasing, turning a blind eye to behaviours if you are on the team, drugs, alcohol, skipping school, loyalty to friends and team, as well as wonderful love and friendship. This is a story that will make you laugh and cry. There are so many messages and questions that arise in this book. Does sports build character? Are the rich and famous given a free pass to commit crimes if they have enough money to pay a good lawyer? How many times can the victim be victimized by those around them? Should groups/schools/organizations be allowed to handle situations internally? Do the police really investigate thoroughly when they think they already know the answer? There is one quote in this book that really sticks with me: "This town doesn't always know the difference between right and wrong, I'll admit that. But we know the difference between good and evil." That sums up a lot of this story. When I first started this book, I put it aside as it was not what I expected and it dragged a bit, but stick with it. Once I got partway into it, I could not put it down. A wonderful book that would be a great addition to a high school English curriculum.
    SheTreadsSoftly 24 days ago
    Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a very highly recommended novel that follows a wildly varied group of citizens from a small Swedish town obsessed with hockey - but it is about so much more than that. Beartown is a must-read exceptional novel that I predict will resonate with readers for a long time. This incredible, profound book is sure to be a contender for my list of top ten novels for 2017. I'll totally admit that, during the first part of Beartown, I wasn't so thrilled with the novel, thinking it was going to be exclusively a hockey story about a down-on-their luck small town with a winning team in the big tournament. I love Backman's writing, though, so I continued reading. Then it became about so much more than hockey and stole my heart and mind. So my first piece of advice is to keep reading even if you aren't a hockey fan. "Beartown's real traditional sports: shame and silence." Beartown is a small dying town slowly being taken over by the surrounding forest. The whole town is consumed by hockey and the junior ice hockey team that is about to compete in the national semi-finals. These boys actually have a chance at winning, which could change the luck of the whole town. The team has several great players, but is lead by an exceptional player, Kevin, and his best friend, Benji, who is fearless in assisting him. After winning the semi-final, the teenage boys have a party and an incident at the party changes everything. Soon the town is tearing itself apart, taking sides, and making moral choices. Bachman has a rich cast of characters that populate Beartown - and the town itself is a character. His characters are distinct individuals with strengths and weaknesses - all of his characters. When you are done reading you will know these people. While many are influenced by the outspoken opinion of others, there are a few who have the character to stand up for their own opinions and for themselves. If you've ever grown up in a small town (likely obsessed by football or basketball in the USA) you have lived in this town and you know these people. And, of course, there is hockey too, which becomes a character. The writing is rich, masterful, and admirable. There are moments of great failure and overwhelming compassion, scenes of desperate cruelty and sly humor, and people with a malicious bent and others with a quiet wisdom. The empathetic narrative explores love, personal sacrifice, and the vital importance of family and friendships. This exceptional novel is part character study, part morality tale, part coming-of-age story, part family drama, part redemptive tale and totally wonderful. Just read this novel asap. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.
    Chris721 29 days ago
    Beartown is a small town in Sweden. Hockey is the way of life there. The boys junior ice hockey team is going to the national semi finals. The entire town is celebrating and has their eyes on winning then going to finals. Peter is the GM of the hockey club. He is married to Kira and they have 15 year old Maya and 12 year old Luke. After winning the semi finals, 17 year old Kevin the star hockey player, has a party. His parents are out of town and lots of alcohol is consumed by the team and their guests. A violent assault occurs to a young girl at the party and the town must come to terms with the fallout. Is the hockey player above the law and should be forgiven because he plays hockey? Doesn't the young girl deserve justice for what happened to her? It is a story of family, what one does to protect their family, and courage to face something so terrible. It was an emotional read which I truly loved. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC for an honest review.