Book Review

Fredrik Backman’s BEARTOWN

Backman, Fredrik - Beartown - COVER
Author: Fredrik Backman
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Atria Books
Start Date: March 29, 2017
End Date: April 26, 2017
Rating: 5 stars

The town wakes early, like it does every day; small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any change in the world.

This book admittedly took me longer to read than it should have. This was due primarily to the fact that school had to take precedence for a few weeks, even at the expense of a new book from Fredrik Backman! So, unfortunately, I’ve been a bit of a recluse as of late. But I digress.

At its core, Beartown is a hockey town. Hockey is the crux of its very existence. The junior team has made it to the semifinals, the outcome of which will determine the fate of the town. If they win, they will be able to build up the hockey program even more and put their town on the map. If they lose, well, no one wants to think about that. When an incident occurs during the semifinals, the repercussions will shake the town to its very core.

Fredrick Backman’s new book was, for lack of a better word, intense. The subject matter revolves around rape – and the implications it has for the victim, the perpetrator, and the town itself.

However, this book was profound. There’s something about his writing style that allows him to capture the often-elusive words that describe the essence human nature. He writes with an intimacy and overwhelming accuracy that quite often takes your breath away.

“Culture” is an odd word to use about hockey; everyone says it, but no one can explain what it means. All organizations like to boast that they’re building a culture, but when it comes down to it everyone really only cares about one sort: the culture of winning. Sune is well aware that the same thing applies the world over, but perhaps it’s more noticeable in a small community. We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.

There were so many wonderful characters in this book. Although I didn’t necessarily like all of them, I can appreciate the complexity of their development. There was not a single character that was one-dimensional, and because of this, these characters were instantly relatable and sympathetic. To portray the overall atmosphere of the town, Backman frequently shifts between the points-of-view of various inhabitants every few paragraphs or so. It does take a little getting used to the clipped nature of the narrative as well as the variety of characters living in Beartown, but it was intricate and well-done.

Beartown was a great read. Even though it dealt with a variety of weighty themes – rape culture, community, loyalty, familial relationships, the role of women in sports – there were moments of light in the darkness, of optimism and humor, of healing and growth. Backman’s writing has this unique balance where he can simultaneously make you think deeply one moment and then laugh-out-loud the next. His writing is also so instantly quotable, and I found myself highlighting passages I liked at least on every other page.

Whenever they wanted to say, “Thanks,” or “Sorry,” or “I’m right here with you,” they would say, “Would you like coffee?” or “Can I get you a beer?” or “Two shots, please, on my tab.”

I don’t think this book was quite as good as A Man Called Ove, which I read in February of this year (you can read my review here), but I’m talking 4.85 stars vs. a perfect 5.00. Either way, it definitely warrants rounding up to a solid 5-star rating!

If you liked his previous work, then you should definitely give this one a go. It has a different vibe and style than A Man Called Ove, but the underlying message wasn’t lacking in intensity or punch. Backman writes with panache and is not to be missed.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an advanced copy of this e-galley in exchange for an honest review!


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