Hardcover: 432 pages
Published: April 2017 by Atria
Goodreads Description: The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
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 this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
I’ll come right out and say it…..there’s way too much talk about hockey Beartown. Both the book and the town, frankly. If Beartown had been written by anyone other than Fredrik Backman, I’d have given up about 25 pages in. There’s THAT MUCH HOCKEY. And too much repetition. But it’s Backman, and I’m a Backman fangirl, so I kept at it. (For evidence of just how much I love Backman, check out my previous reviews of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.)
Beartown tells the story of a small town’s dreams of being hockey champions. Those dreams rest on the shoulders of the boys’ junior team as they enter the semifinals. Then tragedy occurs, and the town has to deal with the fallout.
I apologize for the spoiler here, though I imagine it’s not too much of a giveaway if you read the book jacket. This book deals with rape. You can’t read Beartown and not think about the way society responds to rape victims. Whether that was his intent or not, the book has some pretty hefty options for discussion. It’d be a great book club book.
Beartown’s cast of characters is a motley crew of misfits, miserable adults, and misguided teenagers. For me, there’s just something about the way Backman writes his characters. They’re real. They’re awful and they’re beautiful. They’re human. Perhaps that’s it – they represent the many pieces of all of us. No other writer makes me care so much about what happens to his or her characters. Reading a Backman novel is an emotional experience – it’s like meeting someone, falling in love, having your heart broken, and then finding out you really were soulmates and forgiving each other.
In short, it’s a Backman novel through and through. If you’ve read and loved his others, you’ll love Beartown. Likewise, if you hated his others, steer clear….unless you’re mad for hockey. If you’ve never read Backman….start with A Man Called Ove.