Author: Fredrick Backman
Published: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: sports, contemporary fiction, trauma, community, family
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis (via Simon & Schuster):
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: LibraryReads • BookBrowse • Goodreads
“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People
The 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.
Ohhhh man, I really enjoyed this one! It was one of those books that when it ended, I was left with a major book hangover (thankfully, Us Against You is out right now and I immediately put it on hold after finishing this one). Although the beginning was a little slow, or maybe it just took me a minute to get past all of the sports and hockey references, I just fell in love with the writing, the characters, the plot, the struggles, and the realness of it all quite quickly. I was an athlete growing up and always played team sports. As did my brother. And growing up in Buffalo, NY-hockey and the ice rinks were 75% of our life. Seriously…it snowed a lot and the ground was iced over A LOT in Buffalo. My dad used to make us an ice rink in the backyard every winter so we could skate and play hockey to our hearts delight. I have fond memories of my dad all bundled up in his heaviest gear, hosing the ice to get another thin layer built up in the middle of the night when the weather was at it’s coldest. It was magical-and I remember thinking it was magical then too. But anyways, I digress. So I was constantly surrounded by sports, athletes, and all of the personalities that come along with that. As I was reading Beartown, I saw so many similarities to what I lived growing up. Thankfully it was the good and bad, and a lot less of the ugly that we saw happening in this fictional town. I wasn’t involved in anything similar to what happens in the book, but unfortunately, it is no stretch of the imagination for me to picture it occuring. There are so many good things about sports and taking part in sports as a child (camaraderie, friendships, learning determination, sportsmanship, how to work together, etc.) but there are some not so great things too (severe competition, jealousy, favoring players for reasons besides their athletic abilities, coverups, the athletes coming before most everything else, sexism, etc.) and we see some of that ugliness in this book. My visceral reaction felt so, so real that I actually had to pause reading at one point. The writing is that good.
Overall, this book is about so much more than hockey-it’s about community, family, friendship, love, betrayal, anger, rage and so much more. The characters are well-defined, the writing is amazing and the story line is engrossing. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would highly recommend this book!