REVIEW: BEARTOWN By Fredrik Backman

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Published April 25th By Simon & Schuster

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. It is a town that has lost everything except it’s love of hockey the junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals;  they actually have a chance to win.  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 teenager 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. 

******

When several of my fellow bloggers and one very good non-blogging reading friend, all whose opinions I very much trust, have raved about this book then I just had no choice but to see what all the fuss was about! I say fuss because I have very much resisted reading this book. You see, I’ve tried two of Backman’s other books…A Man Called Ove went into my Did Not Finish pile and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, which was a book club read, didn’t work on any level for me. Beartown, however, was like reading a book by a completely different author and I mean that as the highest compliment…this book was unputdownable and completely addictive!

What starts out, on the surface, as a book about a small town obsessed with hockey will, I promise you, turn into so much more. I’m going to be honest, the first half of the book is what you might call a character/setting set up and what I mean by that is the author takes you to Beartown…you are there in the frigid outdoors of a small isolated town in the forest as kids exhaust themselves playing hockey in an effort to not only make something of themselves and their future but also to save the town. These kids are aware of what a victory in the semi-finals means for Beartown and they will literally use their blood, sweat and tears to try to make it happen. As a result, we get to know some remarkable characters and their parents…Amat, Benji, Bobo, Maya, Ramona (seriously the love I have for this lady!) and others who infiltrated my heart and mind, and that’s just what Backman wants to happen because by the time the second half of the book rolls around, I was so obsessed with these characters, this town, and this story that…you guessed it…I was up until at least 2:00am reading!

I won’t tell you anything else about the plot except to say that of course there’s a pivotal, life altering, tragic event that happens that not everyone you’ve grown to love will recover from and the way Backman has this play out in the second half of the book is brilliant. I was so captivated by the writing and the story I didn’t care that I lost significant amounts of sleep for 2 nights…it’s just that good! And if you’ve read other reviews and/or blurbs about this book you might know that it’s often compared to Friday Night Lights which, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest tv shows EVER, and it most definitely reminded me of that small Texas football obsessed town. Now, David (hockey coach) was no Coach Taylor but there were other characters who reminded me of Tim Riggins, Tami, Buddy and Landry no doubt about it and I loved it all the more for these similarities.  “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose…” Ah, miss you Coach Taylor:)

If you’re at all on the fence about this book I say give it a try, you might be like me and end up pulling a couple late nighters and making space for this one on your top reads of 2017 list!