Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown. What a book.

Essentially, it’s about a small town in northern Sweden, that is obsessed with hockey. Everyone in the town is either obsessed with hockey because they themselves love it, or they are dragged into the hockey chaos because someone close to them loves it. I went into this book with the same mindset as most readers probably do; “Why are they so obsessed with hockey, it’s only a game…”. This question was quickly met with an answer- the town is dying. However there is hope. If the juniors win the finals, and have the best junior team in the country, it would mean that the next big Swedish hockey academy would be built in Beartown. This academy would put Beartown back on the map- and bring their economy a boost that they need desperately. All of the town’s hopes and dreams are therefore heaped upon the backs of the hockey team and their coaches. This gives the star players an immense power, a power that is misused by one particular hockey player in a terrible way.

How will the town cope? How will they draw the line? Who will step forward and become heros of justice?

There were so many amazing characters in this book; Amat, Maya, Benji, Peter, Kira, Bobo, Ana, David, Sune etc. etc. Usually I have a hard time with this many characters, I cannot keep them all straight, and they all kind of blur together in my mind. Not in this book. Even the minor characters are painted in such a vivid way and manage to develop very well. The lovable characters are extremely lovable. The antagonists make my skin crawl and my blood boil with rage.

Two themes that stood out to me in particular:

  1. Dedication. The majority of the characters show an immense amount of dedication to one thing or another. Granted, because Beartown is a hockey town, for many characters that dedication is given to hockey. It’s hard not to admire and feel lazy in comparison to the daily, consistent efforts of Amat, Kevin, and Filip. Then there are the coaches, Sune and David, who spend more time on the rink than off the rink. There are also the characters who are dedicated to their families and their children.
  2. Justice. How can each person personally stand up for what they believe is right? What are the implications of going against the grain, in order to do the right thing? So many characters had to make challenging decisions in Beartown. Some seem smaller than others, but all have their significance. A striking example in Beartown, is the boy who goes to school early one morning to wash away a cruel word that was graffitied. Small, but not insignificant.

Beyond the amazing characters and the important lessons that can be learned; this story is told in such a captivating way. I had the hardest time putting this book down and finished all 415 pages within 30 hours, which is relatively unheard of for me. Without a doubt this book gets 5/5 stars from me. I am already looking forward to re-reading Beartown. It would be the perfect “cold, winter night” read.

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