Beartown

Beartown

by Fredrik Backman
4.5 42

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Overview

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: LibraryReads BookBrowse Goodreads

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

The 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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501160776
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 255
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(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.

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.

  • 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 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 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 11 months ago
    Awesome. As a hickey player. Truly hit home. Should be a great movie
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this author's writing. Bought this knowing nothing but the title. Enjoyed it & finished same day, even with zero interest in hockey. However, I preferred the quirky characters & stories in his previous books.
    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 3 months ago
    A must read for parents, teens, grandparents! This book should be on the list of books students study in school. Families should read and discuss. It kept me on the edge of my seat through each page.
    DoranneLongPTMS 4 months ago
    I love this book; the story and characters feel real. I was intrigued on so many levels from the first, to the very last page.
    Anonymous 6 months ago
    I could not put this book down. It is filled with wisdom, bravery, sportsmanship and profuse loyalty. I highly recommend reading it
    Anonymous 6 months ago
    Amazing!
    JuliW 6 months ago
    When I first heard about this book, I jumped right onto my local library's digital site and put a hold in for the audio book. The line was 64 people deep. I could have left the queue and found other things to read, but something told me this book would be worth the time. So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. This week it was finally my turn. Within five minutes of starting the audio, I knew this story was well worth the weeks I had to wait. This book is freaking amazing. I grew up in a small town. Still live in one....but 1,200 miles away from where I started out. But....all small towns are a lot alike. Cliques. The part of town you don't want to be from. The spoiled kids on the side of town everyone wishes they were from. And sports. The pressure, excitement and chaos of local sports. When the local team is in the state playoffs or has kids recruited by top notch colleges.....it gets very political and sometimes downright nasty quickly for anyone who stands in the way. But this story isn't just about sports. It's about truth, fairness and.....unfairness. It's about good....and evil. Truth and lies. And the consequences of all of it. Beartown is a small town in the middle of a forest in Sweden. It's not an important place....life goes on there and the rest of the world has no idea it even exists. Beartown is a hockey town. The kids there practice, practice, practice starting when they are young....and they play their hearts out dreaming of their chances of winning a national title, putting Beartown on the map. They've had a couple pro players in years past. Peter, the Bears' general manager, played pro hockey. After an injury ended his career, he came to Beartown to manage the team. This year Beartown has Kevin...he's the best player they have. He has a good chance of going pro. And this year Beartown has a chance of winning it all. WIN. That is the most important word in Beartown right now. But, something will happen. An incident will change everything. It will turn friend against friend, ignite gossip, division and anger. This story is about so much more than hockey. It's about a time when a single event made people realize that life is not about hockey. Sometimes it's about people, about loyalty, about truth.....and right. I absolutely love this book! A sequel, Us Against You, is coming out in June. I can't wait to read it!!! And if the queue is 64 people deep again.....or 264 people deep.....I know the story will be well worth waiting for. I don't give 5 star reviews very often. This book gets full marks.
    nurse97 7 months ago
    beyond amazing! A book you didn't want to put down but didn't want it to end!! I feel this is one of his best! I have said that about all of his books , but this tells a story that can be happening in your own town!
    Anonymous 8 months ago
    Entertaining and thought provoking
    Xkoqueen 9 months ago
    Beartown by Fredrik Backman starts with a damning scene that sets the stage for constant dread and leaves the reader watchful for clues as to the identity of the malevolent character in the opening scene, that you know will be readdressed at the story’s zenith. From the start, I was overwhelmed with the hopeless desperation that has settled over the town and its inhabitants. The desolate Beartown has only junior-league hockey on which to pin its hopes and dreams. Subsequently, the town is filled with washed-up adults who dreamed of hockey stardom only to lose all their hope in local games lost as young teenagers. In the prime of their playing years, the boys are placed on pedestals. They are the local sports heroes. They are potentially the ones who will get out or make a name for the town. In a small town, like Beartown, no one wants to be on the outside or shunned, so it is easier to remain silent and complacent about an obvious injustice or act of violence stemming from the entitlement of celebrity. There are many victims and many bullies in Beartown; no one, adult or child, is immune from the impact. Mr. Backman weaves an intricate story set in a stark landscape and filled with interesting characters. He has peppered his novel with poignant social messages in a way that they are not preachy or overbearing. Beartown is a bit of departure from the author’s usual uplifting style; however, it is no less moving than his prior, more charming stories. It is equal parts an “age-old” and a “pulled from the headlines” story. I was enthralled from start to finish, and this book haunted me for days after I finished reading. P.S. There is no need to like hockey or children in order to love this book.
    Anonymous 10 months ago
    Excellent story of family and other love in a tough and taciturn town.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Heartwarming and intense!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Fictionophile More than 1 year ago
    Top-notch literary fiction! Backman is in a league of his own! Where to start? When you absolutely LOVE a book, it is hard to know how to write a review without sounding 'gushy'. I hate gushy. Deep in a forest in Sweden lies a small town called "Beartown". Beartown is a hockey town, and this book is about hockey. But it's not really. It is about society, it is about life, parenthood, loyalty, bravery, and so very much more. It is about a scandal, and how the people of Beartown are forced to take sides... Beartown is a town that is in economic decline. Pretty much all it has left is its hockey club. The hope is that if the town's team wins the final, money and prosperity might return to the town as a result. It is hard to pinpoint a protagonist in this novel. All the characters shine brightly, and you will come to care for them all. "It doesn't take a lot to be able to let go of your child. It takes everything." The Andersson family: Peter, his wife, Kira, their fifteen year old daughter Maya, and their twelve year-old son, Leo. Peter, a former professional hockey player, is the General Manager of the Beartown Hockey Club. Kira is a talented lawyer, Maya loves her guitar, and Leo his games. Oh, and then there is Ana, Maya's best friend, who practically lives at the Andersson's. The Erdahl family: Seventeen year-old Kevin is the town's star hockey player. He was born with the talent to excel at his sport. He is the only child of affluent parents who are not demonstrative in their affections. His father is one of the primary financial backers of the team. "Kevin is too good. Kevin is the jewel, Benji the insurance policy." Benjamin (Benji), is Kevin's best friend. He has been since they were both tiny. A fighter on the ice, Benji always has Kevin's back. Kevin wouldn't be half the player he is without Benji's support, both on and off the ice. Fatima, works as a cleaner at the hockey rink. An immigrant, and the mother of fifteen year-old Amat, a small boy in stature, but a big man in moral fibre. He loves hockey and is one of the fastest skaters in Beartown. The only thing he loves more than skating, is Maya Andersson. "The most painful fall for anyone is tumbling down through a hierarchy." Sune, the A-team coach of the Beartown Hockey Club. He has been around as long as anyone can remember. He is patriarch of the hockey club and mentor to both Peter and David. David, the hockey coach. The players love him and have done so since they were seven years old. He is who they strive to win for. Ramona, the chain-smoking owner of the town's only tavern. Ramona is a childless widow. "People say she's gone mad, because that's what people who know nothing about loneliness call it." This book did exactly what literary fiction should do. It makes you think. About others in your life - about yourself. It makes you chuckle, it makes you weep. This is a book about parents and children, friendships, loyalty and betrayal, loss and loneliness, bravery and cowardice, vengeance and justice, the value of social acceptance. "Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds. Each day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat, depending on who you spend it with." In my opinion, if you spend your time reading Beartown, it is time well spent. Highly recommended!
    stickerooniDM More than 1 year ago
    Based on the previous works of Fredrik Backman that I've read, I've come to think of him as one of the freshest, somber voices in literature that we've seen in a long time. That opinion hasn't changed much, but with Beartown, one of the newest to be translated and published in the U.S., he begins to look a bit formulaic as well. Beartown tells the story of a small, rural town out in the woods and away from the rush and hustle of civilization. Beartown is in northern Sweden, but as is typical with Backman it's really an 'anytown'. Hockey is the town sport - more than a sport, really, it's a way of life where the activity teaches the boys camaraderie and the competitive spirit and where those who are now older look at the sport and are reminded of their younger days. Beartown is also the second-best. A championship in hockey has been a dream but the residents are constantly reminded that they are second best - not up to the fast, aggressive, and so-much-better city residents. But once in a while a natural talent comes along and Beartown has that now and their dreams of a hockey championship are renewed. But with the winnings and the expectations of the team moving onward, a voice rises up that could bring the expected championship to a sudden halt. A teenage girl calls out against one of the boys for raping her at a celebration party. In a town that pins all its hopes on a hockey championship, one girl's trauma is a source of irritation for many. What I like about Backman is that he has his finger on the pulse of small towns. It doesn't seem to matter - if someone was born and raised and lived all their life in a small town in Sweden or a small town in Minnesota, the attachment to an activity stays in the community - especially if the residents don't 'get out.' But here the comparison ends. Instead of a typical small town, we get the stereotypical assortment of characters. Just the right mix to create the stereotypical collection of grumps and know-it-alls and teens discovering their sexual identity. What you see on the surface pretty much is who they are. Unlike some of Backman's other books, where we get a little deeper into the story and discover the layers of a character, here the town itself is the character but there aren't many layers to it. I will also admit that I was uncomfortable with the rape sequence in the book, and more so with the accusations against the girl from the community. I recognize that this is often the treatment victims receive, but that doesn't mean I need to be okay with it. Because I was uncomfortable, it made it more difficult for me to stay in and 'enjoy' the story. Because it's Backman, we know he's going to leave us with a ray of hope, and that's pretty much all I could hang onto as I went further in. I'll read the other volumes in this series because I generally like Backman, but I hope he gets out of the comfort zone of stock characters here. Looking for a good book? Beartown by Fredrik Backman takes a look at small town pride and jealousy and hatred and gets it close to 'right' but doesn't go out of the way to create new or real characters for this one. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.