“In this story of a small forest town,
Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.”
It is official! I can honestly say that Fredrik Backman is my favorite author. I have now read everything he has written, and all have been top-notch. “Beartown” rates as high as “A man called Ove” in my opinion, so that is high praise indeed coming from me.
I usually add a few quotes to my reviews, but in this case if I added all the quotes I highlighted in my Kindle, this review would be almost as long as the book itself. Though, that being said, I did have to add a few of my most favorite quotes at the end of this review.
Where to start? When you absolutely LOVE a book, it is hard to know how to write a review without sounding ‘gushy’. I hate gushy.
Deep in a forest in Sweden lies a small town called “Beartown”. Beartown is a hockey town, and this book is about hockey. But it’s not really. It is about society, it is about life, parenthood, loyalty, bravery, and so very much more. It is about a scandal, and how the people of Beartown are forced to take sides…
Beartown is a town that is in economic decline. Pretty much all it has left is its hockey club. The hope is that if the town’s team wins the final, money and prosperity might return to the town as a result.
It is hard to pinpoint a protagonist in this novel. All the characters shine brightly, and you will come to care for them all.
“It doesn’t take a lot to be able to let go of your child. It takes everything.”
The Andersson family: Peter, his wife, Kira, their fifteen year old daughter Maya, and their twelve year-old son, Leo. Peter, a former professional hockey player, is the General Manager of the Beartown Hockey Club. Kira is a talented lawyer, Maya loves her guitar, and Leo his games. Oh, and then there is Ana, Maya’s best friend, who practically lives at the Andersson’s.
The Erdahl family: Seventeen year-old Kevin is the town’s star hockey player. He was born with the talent to excel at his sport. He is the only child of affluent parents who are not demonstrative in their affections. His father is one of the primary financial backers of the team.
“Kevin is too good. Kevin is the jewel, Benji the insurance policy.”
Benjamin (Benji), is Kevin’s best friend. He has been since they were both tiny. A fighter on the ice, Benji always has Kevin’s back. Kevin wouldn’t be half the player he is without Benji’s support, both on and off the ice.
Fatima, works as a cleaner at the hockey rink. An immigrant, and the mother of fifteen year-old Amat, a small boy in stature, but a big man in moral fibre. He loves hockey and is one of the fastest skaters in Beartown. The only thing he loves more than skating, is Maya Andersson.
“The most painful fall for anyone is tumbling down through a hierarchy.”
Sune, the A-team coach of the Beartown Hockey Club. He has been around as long as anyone can remember. He is patriarch of the hockey club and mentor to both Peter and David.
David, the hockey coach. The players love him and have done so since they were seven years old. He is who they strive to win for.
Ramona, the chain-smoking owner of the town’s only tavern. Ramona is a childless widow.
“People say she’s gone mad, because that’s what people who know nothing about loneliness call it.”
This book did exactly what literary fiction should do. It makes you think. About others in your life – about yourself. It makes you chuckle, it makes you weep. This is a book about parents and children, friendships, loyalty and betrayal, loss and loneliness, bravery and cowardice, vengeance and justice, the value of social acceptance.
“Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds. Each day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat, depending on who you spend it with.”
In my opinion, if you spend your time reading Beartown, it is time well spent. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada who sent me a physical copy of the book, and to Atria Books who approved my request for a digital reading copy on NetGalley.
Here is a link to the online Reading Group Guide provided by Simon & Schuster.
Some of my favorite quotes from Beartown:
“Sometimes life doesn’t let you choose your battles. Just the company you keep.”
“All adults occasionally wonder about another life, one they could be living instead of the one they’ve got. How often they do so probably depends on how happy they are.”
“There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.”
“Amat is sitting in a corner, doing his very best imitation of an empty corner.”
“The early afternoon sky hovers just above the trees almost all year round in these parts, and that can be hard to get used to for someone who grew up in a big city where nature was something used primarily as a screensaver.”
“Any living thing that is kept behind bars for long enough eventually becomes more scared of the unknown than its own captivity.”
“Bitterness can be corrosive; it can rewrite your memories as if it were scrubbing a crime scene clean, until in the end you only remember what suits you of its causes.”
“They mean everything to him, so he is everything they want him to be. And that’s a terrible thing. Having to keep a secret from those you love.”
“Peter was so averse to conflict that he couldn’t even kill time.”
“Laughter can be liberating. Roaring with laughter can unite a group. Heal wounds, kill silence.”
“Humanity has many shortcomings, but none is stronger than pride.”
“Maya knows all too well that this silence can be like water. If you let it make its way too far in, it can freeze into ice and break your heart.”
“…the people around a bullied child assume that he or she must get used to it after a while. Never. You never get used to it. It burns like fire the whole time. It’s just that no one knows how long the fuse is, not even you.”
Fredrik Backman is a Swedish columnist, blogger and writer of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries, in more than twenty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.