Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

About Beartownbeartown

Hardcover: 432 pages
Published: April 2017 by Atria
Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionThe #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.

My Review

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.

Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

About And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

• Hardcover: 76 pages
• Published: November 2016 by Atria Books
• Source:
 Library (via Overdrive)

Goodreads DescriptionFrom the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

“Isn’t that the best of all life’s ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild, when a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.”

Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.

As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.

Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I adore anything Fredrik Backman writes. I think I’ve pushed A Man Called Ove on just about every reader I’ve encountered. Both Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry made me cry big ugly tears, in a good way. I have yet to read Britt-Marie Was Here, and I’ve got Beartown, his newest, pre-ordered. And I’ve had And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer on hold through the library for weeks. For such a short little novel, it sure took a while to get to me!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a novella about losing what most of us hold most dear: our memory. It’s about the fear and pain that comes with cognitive decline, both for the person experiencing it and the people who love them. It’s about the struggle between anger and love, past and present. And strangely, it’s hopeful – because as Grandpa says, Noah will get the chance to make his goodbye perfect, something most of us don’t get to do and live with regret over.

True to Backman’s form, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is beautiful and painful and utterly perfect.