Wednesday 25 November 2020

Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown by Fredrik Backman book cover

AD* | 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.

Beartown is a beautifully-written story of hopes, dreams, love, loss - and one small, stubborn town. 

This is one of the most well-written books I have read in a long time; not just from the narrative point of view, but from the prose and the way the story is crafted, woven, and spun together. The town, the people, and the events are all described so well that it is easy to picture them in your mind's eye. It's immersive and engaging - and a truly wonderful work of literature. 

The story itself - like Beartown - focuses on hockey. Even if you are not familiar with the sport, the roar of the crowd, the energy of the players, and the must-win mentality of coaches, sponsors, players, and parents alike are all-too-familiar from sports played around the world. In Beartown, hockey is so much more than just a game, and the residents' passion for hockey seeps out of the pages of this book. 

Beartown does not shy away from discussing difficult issues, either. From questions of morality to the difference between right and wrong, or good and evil, many sacrifices and hard decisions are made. When you have everything to play for and everything to lose, what would you do to keep yourself afloat? 

Despite being united by a common love for hockey, the residents of Beartown are as varied as they come. From typical small-towners to the local big-shots, everyone has an agenda and the relationships that play out throughout the story are as real as they are often heartbreaking. It takes a certain type of person to live in a place like Beartown, and its inhabitants are stubborn as mules yet as proud as lions. 

Beartown is more than just a town. It is a living being, predator and prey, merciless and merciful. A remote place beyond the forest where residents are united by a single sport. Beyond all else, this is the story of Beartown.

Rating: 3 stars 

Beartown is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Have you read Beartown? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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