Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Winners

The Winners by Fredrik Backman
9/27/22; 688 pages
Atria Books
Beartown series #3

The Winners by Fredrik Backman is an outstanding, excellent and obviously very highly recommended third novel in the Beartown series. To date, The Winners is the best book I have read this year. Be sure to read Beartown (2017) and Us Against You (2018) the first two Beartown novels.

In the Swedish forest towns of Beartown and Hed, a storm blows through the area that downs many trees, wrecks havoc, and destroys the roof of the ice hockey rink in Hed. During the same storm a beloved citizen dies, which is the impetus for Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich to come home and a reunite with their friends. The storm also means that the Hed hockey players must train and play in the Beartown rink, which ignites another kind of storm as the tension between the two towns grow.

It has been two years since what happened to Maya, but repercussions still remain. Beartown and Hed are still bitter rivals on the ice, but there is also an undercurrent of interconnectedness to the residents of both communities, after all, they live in forest towns and it takes a certain kind of resilient person to live there.

Backman brings back his beloved characters (Peter, Kira, Maya, Benji, Ana, Ramona, Bobo, Amat, Sune and others) and introduces new ones. All of the characters are fully realized individuals who are portrayed as real people. This ability to develop a rich cast of realistic characters that readers will become totally devoted to and care about is a gift that few writers have. You will become  invested in the characters and the plot.

The writing is phenomenal, absolutely perfect. Just as real life can be complicated, the plot is also complex. There are many story lines in the narrative, but with characters as believable as these it seems so effortless to follow all of them. Backman excels at foreshadowing events that are to come, which will further invest readers in the story, if it is even possible to become more invested in such an engrossing novel.

I love everything about Backman's writing and have highlighted more passages in this one book than I have in any other for years. There are so many truisms in the narrative which had me pausing and rereading passages simply because they were so well written and filled with such truth and insight. Admittedly, I was also a sobbing mess for part of The Winners. It is both a celebration of life and a tragedy, of friendship and loss. I love this novel perhaps even more than all of Backman's previous novels, which I also loved. There are not enough stars available for The Winners.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley.

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