Earlier this year, I read what is probably Fredrik Backman’s most well-known novel, A Man Called Ove, and it instantly became one of my favorite books. I already own another one of his books – My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – which I haven’t gotten to yet, but, still, I jumped at the opportunity to read Backman’s newest book, Beartown.
(From Goodreads) 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.
I am a huge fan of Backman’s simplistic but beautiful writing. It is one of the biggest reasons I adore A Man Called Ove, and I very much enjoyed experiencing it again with Beartown. I honestly think Backman is on par with writers like Neil Gaiman in my book, which is a very high complement coming from this Gaiman-obsessed gal. (And that might be the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘gal’.) It really is that great, and I definitely think it’s something everyone should experience at least once.
But as much as I loved the writing, I struggled to connect with this story in particular. And before I give you a negative impression of this book, let me say that the reason was entirely personal and not at all the fault of Beartown or Backman. Without getting into too much detail, I’ll just say that my sister is such an outspoken hockey fan that it’s obnoxious. It’s not that I don’t like hockey, but when it’s all I hear about whenever I’m with my family, I tend to tune it out (and I do get pretty annoyed when she interrupts all other conversations with hockey talk). It’s just too much. And since this book is largely about hockey, reading it was not the escape I wanted. And while I liked the writing and the characters, I had a hard time convincing myself to pick this book back up again and keep reading.
I will say that, had I been capable of reading Beartown objectively, I think I might have loved it nearly as much as I love A Man Called Ove. The mystery was compelling and the characters were unique and dimensional. It also had one of the best first chapters I’ve ever read. Which, now that I think about it, might have set my expectations a bit too high in the beginning. But is honestly worth reading in and of itself.
★★★★☆ – Beartown was probably around a 3.5-star read for me, but I’m rounding up because I like Backman and his writing. If you’re a hockey fan, I think this is a definite must-read, and a fantastic introduction to Backman. Even if you’re not, I think this book is worth checking out, because it was really well-done, and I think it has the potential to be a highly enjoyable read (for those who aren’t as annoyed by hockey as I am).
Beartown is available in bookstores now! Get your copy on Amazon! And be sure to check out my review of A Man Called Ove if you’re interested.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Beartown as one of your two free books (which you get to keep even if you cancel). I also highly recommend checking out A Man Called Ove on audiobook, because I really enjoyed it.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.