Fredrik Backman's books have always affected me - made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here are my two favourites. His newest book, Beartown, has just released. And it is a powerful and compelling read.
Beartown's opening chapter makes it impossible to not keep reading....
"Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."
Beartown is a small town nestled deep in the forest. What you must know is that Beartown is a hockey town. The residents (well most of them) live and breathe hockey. They have their hopes pinned on the junior team. They've made it to the semi finals. But if they win - it could mean new hope for the dying town - jobs, a new rink, tourism, a hockey school, a shopping centre - and hope.
"We need to feel, just once, that we're the best. I know it's a game. But that's not all it is. Not always."
Backman excels at characterizations. But the scope of Beartown is simply amazing. There are a core group of players and their families, but the supporting cast is just as well fleshed out. Every character in Beartown has a story. The setting is just as much a player as well. I could hear the pucks, feel the cold and picture the trees.
It is impossible not to be drawn into the story of Beartown. As we come to know the characters, it is their attitudes, outlooks, plans, schemes and dreams that drive the story forward. Forward to that first chapter.
An ugly event occurs that changes the lives of the players, their families and the townsfolk forever. Part two deals with the fallout from that event. As I mentioned, Backman's books make the reader feel - and again I was moved to tears, shaking my fist in anger and my head in disgust. I wanted so badly to skip to the last chapter to see what ending and resolution Backman had planned, but I managed not to. And I am glad I didn't - for it's all about storytelling in Beartown. To know the ending and not the path there would have robbed me of a fantastic read.
There are so many moments, truths and 'aha's' throughout Beartown. Although hockey is the focus of this book, you could easily substitute another sport - football comes to mind. And the question should be in every reader's thoughts - what price is too high to ensure a win?
From the book..."Why does anyone care about hockey? Because it tells stories." With Beartown, Backman tells one helluva of a story. Read an excerpt of Beartown.