All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

on April 21, 2021

Beartown (Beartown #1)
Fredrik Backman
Translated by Neil Smith
Atria Books
2017, 418p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}: 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 town. And that rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior hockey team is about to compete in the national championships, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of the town now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. 

A victory would send star player Kevin onto a brilliant professional future in the NHL. It would mean everything to Amat, a scrawny fifteen-year-old treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice. And it would justify the choice that Peter, the team’s general manager, and his wife, Kira, made to return to his hometown and raise their children in this beautiful but isolated place. 

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Hers is a story no one wants to believe since the truth would mean the end of the dream. Accusations are made, and like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

I have been meaning to read a book by Fredrik Backman for so long, I’ve seen and heard so many good things about them. Randomly there was one on the display shelf at my library and when I looked at the blurb, it was about ice hockey so I had to grab it. That book was Us Against You which is the second in the Beartown series so I had to order this in from another branch.

I’m a new ice hockey fan, I’ve been following the NHL somewhat loosely for about four years. Living in Australia, it’s not particularly popular here although there does seem to be a growing number of fans. We don’t see many games here and the ones shown are rarely even the conference my team plays in, let alone my actual team so this year for my birthday, my husband paid for an NHL subscription, whereby you can watch every single game. It’s been really good, even if my team are playing particularly bad this year! It’s made me feel much more connected to the sport.

I loved this book. And the ice hockey is only a small part of it, it’s just the catalyst, it could honestly have been any sport really. It’s about human nature and relationships and a small, dying down that desperately needs something to rejuvenate it, to make it relevant again. That something is an ice hockey team that threatens to win the national championships and it’s really down to just two players: Kevin, who has it all. He’s been dedicated to the sport from a young age and he has the talent to go all the way, to make his way to the NHL draft. And his best friend Benjy, an enforcer who makes sure that no one takes Kevin out, that he’s free to glide through and do what he does best.

This is such an insightful story, there’s so much in here about the insular nature of small towns, their view of outsiders, the ways in which they latch onto things. The team has seen success in the past – now General Manager of the Beartown facility, Kevin Andersson was one of those promising kids two decades ago and he found himself with a contract in Canada. Injuries meant it didn’t work out and he dragged his wife and kids back to Beartown to “give back” to the community in a mostly thankless job that means he’s stuck between the Board, who demand success and results, and the ageing coach they want to force out. The coach who has made this club, devoted his whole life to it, nurtured players in ways that went far beyond just teaching them plays on the ice.

The cast of characters is so wonderful, I loved so many of them. Especially Amat, son of a widow, born in a place that doesn’t even see snow. Amat’s mother works as a cleaner at the ice hockey rink and he faces bullying and ridicule from those in the team above him – until someone notices that the 15yo’s speed is what the junior team lacks and soon he’s playing with kids 2 years older than him and for the first time he’s part of it, part of the team, included. It’s a huge rush…..but that comes at a price and Amat has to decide if he wants to pay it.

There is an incident that occurs at a party in this book – it’s something we’ve all heard about, maybe even we know someone that it happened to. If not, we’ve certainly read about similar stories in the news and this book examines the way people view the story, how it’s always a “one person’s word against the other” but the words are not given equal weight – there’s always a tilt towards one side, especially when that person is an incredibly highly promising athlete. This is a snapshot of a societal response, especially when something is threatened as a result of it.

I just really loved the writing and the way this story was told. Every now and then the author would toss in this one liner about marriage or relationships or some sort of observation about human nature and it was so insightful. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing – the book opens with a declaration of an event and then shows how everyone got there and also, towards the end, there are snapshots of the future as well, how the events that played out, shaped the characters after it.

I’m so glad this is a series. I honestly cannot wait to read the second book and I want to own and read everything Fredrik Backman has ever written.


Book #61 of 2021

2 responses to “Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

  1. Lloyd Russell says:

    I never tried this one. I read and loved A Man Called Ove (4/4). But I couldn’t get through My Grandmother Asked Me to tell You She’s Sorry. Since then, I’ve been afraid to try any of his others.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

    On Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 5:01 PM All The Books I Can Read wrote:

    > 1girl2manybooks posted: ” Beartown (Beartown #1)Fredrik BackmanTranslated > by Neil SmithAtria Books2017, 418pRead from my local library Blurb {from > the publisher/}: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny > community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losin” >

  2. Lauren K says:

    So happy to hear you enjoyed Beartown! I loved this book and the sequel. The author so cleverly weaves in real-life interactions in such a relatable way. Apparently, Beartown is being made (or has been made?) into an HBO series. I think it would be a fantastic book to see played out on screen.

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