Beartown

Beartown

by Fredrik Backman

Hardcover(Translatio)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501160769
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Edition description: Translatio
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 28,674
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @BackmanLand or on Instagram @backmansk.

Read an Excerpt

Beartown

2


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.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Beartown includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Beartown is a small community on the brink of disappearing into the surrounding forest as the town loses more and more young people and commerce to the larger surrounding towns. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, home of the hockey club that has long been the sole source of entertainment and pride for the townspeople, and the only possible ticket out of town for the young men who grew up playing hockey there.

Now, the seventeen-year-old boys who make up Beartown’s junior ice hockey team carry the immense weight of all the town’s hopes and dreams on their shoulders. The team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning—a win that could bring a new hockey school, commerce, and prosperity back to Beartown.

The outcome of this semifinal match has the potential to change lives and make dreams come true. But when an act of violence leaves a young girl traumatized the night following the big game, the town is divided—and the people of Beartown must decide what they stand for, what they’ll allow, and what they’re willing to give up on the road to victory.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. What does hockey mean to the people of Beartown? What does winning the semifinal mean for the town’s future?

2. The town and the parents of the Beartown junior hockey team place great expectations on the shoulders of seventeen-year-old boys. How does this pressure affect the boys? Have the club’s leaders (David, Sune, Peter, and the others) prepared the boys to deal with this pressure? Have the boys’ parents?

3. How do issues related to social class affect the people of Beartown and the hockey club? Do those who live in the Hollow have a different world view from those who live in the Heights? Does hockey cut through class distinctions or reinforce them?

4. What does Kira’s role as a working mother, and her job as a lawyer, mean to her? How does her job affect the way others treat her? Consider this passage from the novel:

“Not a second has passed since she had children without her feeling like a bad mother. For everything. For not understanding, for being impatient, for not knowing everything, not making better packed lunches, for still wanting more out of life than just being a mother. She hears other women in Beartown sigh behind her back: ‘Yes, but she has a full-time job, you know. Can you imagine?’” (p. 63)

5. How do Peter and Kira complement each other in their relationship? How does he make up for her weaknesses, and vice versa? Do you think they have a solid marriage? A happy one?

6. Peter loves hockey because it demands his all, his everything. What does hockey demand from each of the characters in the book? What does it take from them?

7. There are many different parents and styles of parenting portrayed in the book. Which parents do you think are the most successful at preparing their children for the real world? Why?

8. Consider this sentiment echoed throughout the book: “What is a community? It is the sum total of our choices.” (p. 312) By this definition, how do the townspeople of Beartown ultimately measure up? What kind of community have they built?

9. Several characters must find the courage to go against the grain of the tight-knit Beartown community. What is at stake for each character who does so, and is it worth it for them in the end?

10. Discuss the difference between male and female roles in the small village of Beartown. What is expected of the girls and women vs. the boys and men? Which characters break these expectations, and what are the consequences of doing so?

11. Consider the importance of names and nicknames throughout the novel. How does the lack of first names for “Kevin’s mother,” “Kevin’s father,” “David’s girlfriend,” and Benji’s “bass player” change your impression of them? What effect does calling Maya “the young woman” have on Maya and her own narrative? How does she start to reclaim her own story?

12. In the course of the novel, we see that playing on a sports team teaches young people values like loyalty, responsibility, and commitment. But we also see instances of exclusion, aggression, and entitlement. Are their certain behaviors that are rewarded in a sports competition but considered inappropriate in daily life? Give examples. Which characters in the book have difficulty navigating this?

13. The events of the novel force the junior boys to grow up quickly as they are faced with very adult realities. What kind of man does Amat become over the course of the book? What do his actions reveal about him? What kind of man does Bobo become? Kevin? Benji?

14. Maya is surprised by how easily she can start to lie to her best friend, Ana, and keep secrets from her. How do each character’s secrets affect his or her relationship with loved ones? Consider the secrets between friends (Maya and Ana, Kevin and Benji, Amat and Zach), as well as those between parents and children, and husbands and wives.

15. How does Maya’s final act shape her future? How does it shape Kevin’s? Do you think a form of justice is achieved? Why or why not?

16. Why do you think Benji chooses to stay in Beartown and play for Sune’s A-Team instead of following the others to Hed? Was his choice affected by his relationship with the bass player?

17. At the end of the novel, do you think the tradition of the Beartown Hockey Club continues? Has its fundamental character changed? How do you think it will change going forward?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Who would you cast in the movie of Beartown?

2. If you haven’t read Fredrik Backman’s other novels before, go back and read A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, or Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as the novella And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, and compare the main themes to that of Beartown. Are there any universal themes you notice in all of Backman’s books?

3. Watch the classic hockey movie Miracle (2004), which tells the story of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” USA Olympic hockey team, with your book club. How does Coach Herb Brooks’s coaching style compare to that of Sune and David in Beartown?

4. Follow author Fredrik Backman on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Backmanland/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/Backmanland) for news about upcoming books, events, and more.

Customer Reviews

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Beartown 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year ago
Not as sweet as a man called ove. Tense and thought provoking. Read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son plays hockey and it was perfect for him. Dont bother hesitating to buy this, it is amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a powerful story with great characters! Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I relly enjoyed this story, even knowing nothing about hockey. The characters were well-developed and I felt great empathy for them all.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Wow was not expecting this story line, was expecting the wry humor and gruff charters in the three previous books of Mr Blackman's I have read. At first almost quit, hockey and I are strangers, but this is ten times deeper and more though provoking and so glad I stuck it out and now know what a great book this is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome. As a hickey player. Truly hit home. Should be a great movie
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars The Scandal (also titled Beartown) is the fourth full-length novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman. It is translated from Swedish by Neil Smith. As remote as this place in the forest is, and barely surviving economic downturns, closures and redundancies, Beartown has one thing going for it: the Beartown Ice Hockey Club Juniors. While the A Team is pretty well hopeless, the Juniors have a star who might just get them to the Final in the big city. And that would bring the attention of sponsors and investors and governing bodies. A kick start for the town would be most welcome, as even those Beartown residents who don’t like ice hockey will acknowledge. But in the hubris of an interim win, someone steps beyond the bounds of the decency that could be expected, and that whole promising future is thrown into jeopardy. Backman’s opening sentence tantalises the reader: “Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s head and pulled the trigger.” The mystery of who and how and why is gradually revealed, and involves some twists and a red herring or two, as well as a good dose of philosophising, quite a lot of social commentary and much ice hockey. Backman is very skilled at the short vignette that describes his minor characters, and also certain important incidents in the lives of major characters. None of his characters is one-dimensional: all have flaws and most have a conscience; some disappoint and some surprise; many keep secrets and some act out of guilt or the hope to protect their loved ones from hurt. In this tale, Backman touches on several topical themes: the behaviour of sporting team members off the field; peer pressure and bullying; “blame the victim” mentality; loyalty and responsibility; the tacit acceptance of the violence inherent in contact sport; and the sense of entitlement that often affects the privileged. Yes, there is a lot of Ice Hockey in this story, but it could actually be centred around any team sport in a remote town to the same effect. There is a very slow build-up to the climax, which may be frustrating for some readers, but patience is rewarded. Backman presents moral and ethical dilemmas in a realistic fashion, but is his formula wearing just a little thin? This is a very good read, but not a brilliant one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great chacterization. Excellent plot. Fascinating setting! It is about a hockey team but you do not need to know hockey to love this book. The novel includes young people, old people, the rich, the poor, the players, their families, business sponsors, teachers, coaches, towns supporters, fans, misfits, and more. This book deserves every award. Gripping story about how people react in a crisis. It is a story of relationships. The book deserves more than an A++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great read
JamesJohnCudneyIV More than 1 year 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
Anonymous 4 days ago
The characters are compelling and real. No one is perfect, but these characters seem like real people with real faults and feelings.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Another one I loved from this author. It was a page turner. Heartwarming and heartbreaking and I shed some tears for this town and Maya.
J-Shari 4 months ago
There are so many things I want to say about this book. It started and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, I had no idea where it was going. But everyone that read the book told me not to give up on it. So I didn’t. About half way through things started to pick up and I was thoroughly impressed by the depth that Blackman portrayed in those pages. I laughed, I cried, and I screamed. And how amazing is it that a book can make you feel all those emotions?
Anonymous 5 months ago
Beartown starts slowly, introducing the people and intertwined lives of a hockey town. But when a girl is assaulted at a drunken post game players party, every person from coaches to sponsors to parents to players and girlfriends must choose between good and evil, between right and wrong, between hockey and everything else. The writing is original, gripping and deeply thought provoking. This is one of the best books of the past several years.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Well written. Love the back and forth between characters and Tim periods. Done perfectly
Anonymous 8 months ago
Very timely in light of the ME, TOO movement. Thank you for a really good read
Anonymous 8 months ago
While I am not a fan of hockey , I am a great fan of Fredrick Backman and am more so after reading Beartown. His understanding of what makes people tick is nothing short of amazing ! Congratulations , Mr. Backman on another unforgettable book.
Cutiefulpink 9 months ago
This is one of those books that change your life. The kind of book you identify with. The kind of book that crawls under your skin and breaks your heart. The last book I read by Fredrik Backman was a beautiful, character driven novel named A Man called Ove. I can’t say that his writing style has grown, because I don’t think it can be improved, but his storytelling has reached a whole new level. That’s not to say that the characters aren’t compelling, they genuinely are, but I will get to that shortly. It’s just that this novel is a plot driven story of mystery and angst. http://amysbooketlist.blogspot.com/2018/08/beartown-review.html
Anonymous 9 months ago
The plot is interesting, the ending has an unexpected twist, but it's the character development that makes this work uniquely interesting.
BK476 10 months ago
Amazing book that I couldn't put down by the end
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous 11 months ago
This book became tortuous quickly. It took half the book to get to the real story. Every few paragraphs is another generic author description of how life impacts peoples life (not tied to a specific character). The book is filled with cliches and the author throws in a surprise person who reveals he is gay in the last 15% of the book for no apparent reason whatsoever other than to give the author a chance to say its OK, even though gay life styles have absolutely nothing to do with the story at all. In short, a pedestrian, dime a dozen novel.
alexcan3 12 months ago
I ordered Beartown after reading A Man Called Ove. I loved Ove, and I wanted to read more Backman. I selected Beartown, also, due to the positive reviews on B&N's website. I have to agree with the majority of reviewers! I loved Beartown! First, I will say that it is very different from Ove. This is not a light, funny read. The subject matter is heavy, thought-provoking, and challenging. Backman tells the story fluidly, with appropriate detail, and I felt connected to the characters. I found myself wondering what I would do in various character's shoes. I think this one is going to stay with me for awhile. I highly recommend.