Beartown

Beartown is both bleak and rich – about a remote town defined by ice hockey, a violent act that shatters their hopes, and the simple answers to the most difficult questions.

A great deal is expected of anyone who’s been given a lot.

— Fredrik Backman

Synopsis:

In a small town in the middle of a snowy forest is a community that lives and breathes hockey. It’s who they are, it’s where they’re going, it’s their answer to so many questions. So when one violent act breaks the illusion of a fault-less team, the town is in an uproar. Sides are taken, accusations are thrown, and humanity is at the mercy of the team.

And when enough people are quiet for long enough, a handful of voices can give the impression that everyone is screaming.

— Fredrik Backman

Review:

I don’t particularly care for sports, or books about sports, and I definitely don’t follow ice hockey. But Beartown is a book about more than ice hockey – it’s about loyalty, community, courage, and responsibility. It cuts through to the essence of the sport and how it defines a town and its individuals. How it drives them to excel and to act. It challenges the team-is-greater-than-the-individual mentality.

Beartown is haunting and heart-wrenching, and at times I had to walk away from it for a day because it was asking the hardest questions and revealing the simplest – yet bleakest – of answers. The characters are complex in their loyalties and their histories, but oh so simple in their humanity. Benji and Amat, Bobo and Ana, even Zacarias and David – they all pull you into their narrative and you realize they’re all so dear to your heart. How am I cheering for this town when I don’t care about sports?

Backman pulls you through the storyline amidst a slew of character narratives. A whole section might be told from a coach’s perspective, then handed off to a player, and then to a parent. Sometimes every paragraph alternates between different viewpoints, and even sometimes just a sentence. Although that sounds confusing, it’s a powerful dance that almost never lets you take one person’s side completely. Imperfect people make impossible decisions, but with a peek into their past, you’re shown compassion for even the most infuriating characters. It challenges your loyalty and conviction about what’s right, and it helps build layers of emotion as thick as the ice on which they skate.

There are few words that are harder to explain than “loyalty.”
It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.

— Fredrik Backman

Beartown
(Björnstad #1)
by Fredrik Backman, Neil Smith (Translator)
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 15th 2016)

Summary

Beartown is about a remote town defined by ice hockey, a violent act that shatters their hopes, and the simple answers to the most difficult questions. It challenges your loyalty and conviction about what's right, and it helps build layers of emotion as thick as the ice on which they skate. An amazing book that left my heart aching - Backman astounds!

— Cassie
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