Book Reviews

Beartown

Author: Fredrik Backman
Published Date: April 25, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Hardcover: 432 pages
Stars: 3 out of 5

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.

This story asks a lot of difficult questions. Where does each character draw the line between what’s right for the greater good, and what’s morally right? Would the answers change if it was your son or daughter, or your parent, or your team mate? When is being a loyal friend not the right thing to do? In exploring each character’s reaction to the events in the story, you are exploring your own answers to these questions as well.

There are a lot of characters in this book – some you’ll love and some you’ll hate. At times it was difficult to keep track of them all. I found Kira Anderson’s character interesting because she’s not originally from Beartown. She’s a big city girl at heart, and you get to see her perspective as sort of an outsider looking in, as she’s raising her family in Beartown. I was also a fan of Fatima and her son, Amat. He’s a bit embarrassed by his mother’s cleaning job at the ice hockey arena where he plays, but when given an opportunity for a better job in exchange for her son’s silence, she says she quite happy at her current job where she can see her son practicing everyday. And then there’s Kevin’s mom, who deep down knows what he’s done from the start, but will always remain silent and true to her son.

According to the reviews, I am clearly in the minority here, but I didn’t love the book. I had a hard time getting into it in the beginning, and then found it to drag on towards the end. Parts of it I enjoyed – there are a lot of heartwarming moments, as Fredrik Backman so eloquently does in all his books – but it is just not my favorite.

Here is my sister meeting Fredrik Backman at a book signing. She found Backman to be very charismatic, funny, and just a delight to meet in person!

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