Monday, April 24, 2017


Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Atria Books: 4/25/17
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501160769

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.

1 comment:

Peggy Ann said...

Same here, Lori! Always finish a Backman book, even if it's slow starting. Your never disappointed! Enjoyed this one lots.