Beartownby Fredrik Backman

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
5 Stars

Synopsis: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. 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 girl 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. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Review: This book is a bit different from others by Fredrik Backman, there is no likeable curmudgeon as the focus of this story, it is about a town and the inhabitants. Beartown is a small, dying town that doesn’t have much except their love of hockey. This simple fact drives this story. The junior team is in the country’s semi-finals for the 17 year old division. When they win this game, there is a wild party in which a crime is committed. The story continues around the belief of the town that the star of the team, could not possibly have done what he is accused of. There are several families that are central to this story and they each have a different dynamic, which of course affects how the children act. There is bullying and teasing, turning a blind eye to behaviours if you are on the team, drugs, alcohol, skipping school, loyalty to friends and team, as well as wonderful love and friendship. This is a story that will make you laugh and cry.

There are so many messages and questions that arise in this book. Does sports build character? Are the rich and famous given a free pass to commit crimes if they have enough money to pay a good lawyer? How many times can the victim be victimized by those around them? Should groups/schools/organizations be allowed to handle situations internally? Do the police really investigate thoroughly when they think they already know the answer? There is one quote in this book that really sticks with me: “This town doesn’t always know the difference between right and wrong, I’ll admit that. But we know the difference between good and evil.” That sums up a lot of this story.

When I first started this book, I put it aside as it was not what I expected and it dragged a bit, but stick with it. Once I got partway into it, I could not put it down. A wonderful book that would be a great addition to a high school English curriculum.