Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Björnstad, #1) translated by Neil Smith
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Sports – Ice Hockey
Find: Goodreads| Amazon
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.
What else can be said that already hasn’t been uttered by anyone that has read Beartown? It’s emotional, devastating, and a book that exposes humanity for all it’s highs and lows. Beartown is a book that’s so real in its reflection of communities, highlighting the best and worst of such towns.
“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard, It makes demands. Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy.”
This is a story about Ice Hockey. It’s about the brotherhood, the team with the weight of a town on its shoulders. It’s about sports culture. About how the community creates a star to carry their hopes and dreams. It explores the ways the sport becomes a pillar in the community, and the pressure on its team to save a dying town. It’s a story that demonstrates the harrowing vicious cycle of exploiting merit and athletic talent as a justification for turning a blind eye to atrocious acts.
This is a story about family. It’s about the lengths a parent would go to in order to protect their child. It’s in the hopelessness of realising that you can’t always protect those you love. It’s about the devastating consequences when a child’s innocence is stolen. How a child finds the strength to carry her family’s grief while processing her own. How words come to distinguish the actions of a boy, yet turns a blind eye to the suffering of a girl. How the voice of a daughter is twisted into a plight against the community. It’s a harrowing story of loss, love, and the strength of family at their strongest and weakest moments.
“Sometimes life doesn’t let you choose your battles. Just the company you keep.”
This is a book about friendship. We explore the defying bonds of friendship in the face of adversity. The distant friendships united by memories of youth. It spotlights the death of a friendship. The one friend loyal enough to see the error of their best friends’ actions. It’s a story about the friends that stand by you until the bitter end, and the ones that have the strength to walk away.
Most of all, this is a story about the community. It’s a book that reveals the best and worst of a dying community united by their love of the game. It’s about social and financial divisions. It’s about accountability and the shame of silence. Beartown is a community that gives a voice to their silence. In how one turns a blind eye for the sake of a community and fails to pursue justice out of blind loyalty to a sport. It’s how a pack mentality can ostracise you from the very town you helped build.
“Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?
It is the sum total of our choices.”
This is the story of Beartown. A community united and destroyed by their love of the game. It’s a story about humanity, and the fight to protect the spirit of the community. It’s about finding your voice and the devastating power of silence. It’s ugly, it’s beautiful, it’s raw, and it’s real. Do yourself a favour and read this book.
What did you think of Beartown?
Have you read any of Fredrik Backman’s other books?
Which one is your favourite?