Beartown by Fredrik Backman is one of those books I’ve been seeing around everywhere for a long time. When I discovered a copy at a second-hand book sale I went to recently, I finally picked it up.
Beartown is a small, struggling town nestled deep in the forest in Sweden. But this sporting town felt like it could be anywhere – in Canada, America, even Australia if you swapped hockey for rugby league. Beartown doesn’t have much going for it besides its ice hockey team. The townspeople’s lives revolve around the ice rink and the fortunes of their team echoes the fortunes of the town.
This season a win by the junior hockey team in the national championships could change everything for the teenage players, the club management and trainers, their families and the rest of the town.
It’s a town that lives for its hockey team and takes pride in its achievements. So when a terrible incident occurs between two teenagers, both connected to the hockey team in different ways, it rips the town apart. Everyone takes sides. And perhaps only death can see justice done.
I went into reading Beartown with my expectations set sky high. And at first I was annoyed by this book. Super annoyed. I was like: “I get it. It’s a hockey town. Everyone is obsessed with hockey. No need to remind me on every page Fredrik Backman.”
Next this book is told from multiple points-of-view. Some characters are teenagers, others are adults. I don’t mind reading books told from different vantage points, but it did seem like the book took a while to get started because of this plot device.
And then there was the use of a lot of foreshadowing. Such as “That’s the last time they see each other in their childhood. That ends tonight.” I’m an impatient reader so this plot device was driving me batty. I wanted the book to get to the point! Stop dropping hints! So I had to calm down my impatient, fast reading self and let the book tell the story in its own good time.
But then something happened around halfway through. Little did I know that by the time I finished Beartown, I would love it… (See I can do foreshadowing too.)
Somehow I got emotionally invested in all the characters and in their stories. Somehow this book went from being slightly annoying to amazing. I went from wondering why people love this book so much to “getting it.” And wanting to read the follow-up book Us Against You.
I can’t remember the last time a book turned my expectations around so drastically. Talk about a roller coaster of a read. I usually don’t enjoy reading books about sport, but this book is so much more than that. It truly was amazing.
Verdict: Beartown is a compelling, masterful read that I highly recommend.
Have you read Beartown? What did you think?