Whatever happens to the ice hockey team happens to the whole town on the edge of the woods. Jobs have disappeared, and tiny Beartown is gasping its last breath. Years ago a hockey rink was built by the men who worked in the factory, and hockey has become Beartown's salvation, but it may also exact a huge price upon everyone who lives there. The junior ice hockey team is readying to compete in the national semifinals and the hopes of the whole town are tied up with the players and their skates.
I really have almost zero interest in sports, but have loved several of Fredrik Backman's previous novels, so even though I thought it was about hockey, I was anxious to read his newest, Beartown. Hockey does figure largely in this novel, but the genius in Backman's book is how well he writes the stories of the characters that play hockey and live in Beartown. I was amazed that Backman could make me care about hockey enough to be totally immersed in the practices, games, and their outcomes, but what he really made me care about is the characters, their lives, and stories.
People like Peter, the general manager of the hockey club, Kira, his wife, and Maya his daughter. Sune, the coach of Beartown's A-team since Peter was a boy, but who is now on the verge of being fired. Kevin, star hockey player, golden son of a wealthy family whose expectations of Kevin become more important then Kevin himself. Benji, Amat and his mother are part of the whole host of people who live and play hockey in Beartown, and each one of their stories and their interactions is remarkable and well-told.
Hockey is the star in Beartown itself, but Backman’s characters are the stars of Beartown the novel. The story can be dark, but the love, sacrifice, teamwork, friendship, and family that Backman writes so well are what make this such a compelling read. I loved A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie was Here, but with Beartown, Backman has matured and improved upon his successful formula of writing about a quirky character to something even more wonderful. This is his best book yet, and may be one of the best books I read in 2017.
My clumsy use of Google translate has produced this wonderful news from Mr. Backman's blog post of March 24:
"Bear City" came out last fall, it is probably the most personal I have written and definitely the most difficult. It is out there in the big pocket now comes in standard paperback in a few months. In late August, I give out the sequel. It will be called “Vi mot er” (We Are Against You) and set during six months after the "Bear City".
I can hardly wait!
Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book.
Beartown is due to be published in the US on April 25th, and you can enter the giveaway by Atria books here on Goodreads through April 16. I have preordered a hardcover copy so I can re-read it, underline passages, and dog-ear pages. I haven't felt this way about a book since The Nix and The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, and I hope you get a chance to read Beartown if it sounds like a book that might interest you.
I'd love to hear your suggestions for what I should read next!