Beartown by Fredrik BackmanBeartown by Fredrik Backmansticker-burst

Beartown

byFredrik Backman

Paperback | April 25, 2017

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about

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

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.

Heather's Review

Beartown, by the author of A Man Called Ove, is a fantastic story. It’s set in a small fictional town with not much going for it, and a future that hinges on the success of the Junior Hockey team. The story includes with a perfect cast of characters, including the team’s aging senior coach, an intensely competitive junior coach, a GM...

see all heather's picks
Carl Fredrik Backman is a Swedish columnist who grew up in Helsingborg. He has been writing for Helsingborgs Dagblad and Moore Magazine. He debuted in 2012 with the novel A Man Called Ove. He is also the author of My grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and have been publis...
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Title:BeartownFormat:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 1 inPublished:April 25, 2017Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501163108

ISBN - 13:9781501163104

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book Hard to get into at first but couldn't put it down by the end. Will definitely be reading more by this author!
Date published: 2018-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyone should read this This is the type of book that everyone should read. It gives you different perspectives of people who are part of a difficult situation. The book starts off a little slow but then grabs your attention.
Date published: 2018-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic novel! WOW! This book reads like a poem at times, the start is a fantastic portrait of a small town obsessed with hockey and all that comes with that. Midway through the book really picks up, the style continues to be amazing and the story is hard to put down. Going to grab anything i can by this author.
Date published: 2018-04-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tough and lovely Backman's writing and storytelling is so purposeful and smart. It is a craft. He brings you into this small town, wholly, with these people, their lives, and the drama that lives with them. I think I agree with a previous review: there was a bit too much hockey talk in the beginning - and this, for me, made it difficult to be engaged at first. Once you move past this, you'll find a great story, beautifully told.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read. love this book. one of the best book that i have read.
Date published: 2018-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow at the start but worth it This novel takes a bit to get into it but you will definitely be glad you picked it up by the end. It highlights important themes in the best possible way
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read i had read Ove and so picked up this book as i loved A Man Called Ove. this book is nothing like that which i find really cool that the same author can write such different stories and i think that made me like the book even more.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! What a heart wrenching story! The story line was so deep and complex, and so were the characters!
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Plot Will Keep You On Your Toes Beartown was quite different from what I was expecting from the style of writing from Fredrick Backman, although a little different, I was not disappointed! He is an amazing author who is extremely talented to be able to make his characters come alive and make you feel for them as if they are real people. The story revolves around hockey and the moral struggles each player to the coach, GM and all the families involved deal with. There are many unsuspected surprises that pop up with the personal lives of the characters that you wouldn't expect. This book is good at keeping you on your toes, so even if you don'r like sports or hockey, you won't be bored with this story. The Gm's daughter is raped by the star player on the Beartown Ice Hockey team after being dared by one of the other players, another player witnesses the horrific act and is paid off by the guilty players father to keep quiet about it. The whole town turns against the young teen girl and her family and stand behind the hockey team, calling the girl a liar. Chapter One starts off: "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger." You will have to read the book to the very end to find out what happens!
Date published: 2018-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from solid it took a while to get into it, but then it got fantastic.
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Book of 2017! I really liked A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie was Here, but Beartown was definitely my favourite Fredrik Backman novel to date! This was quite different then his other work, but it was excellent! I was totally impressed with the writing in Beartown. I highlighted so many passages throughout reading the book and I was really impressed with how Backman handled the serious topics in the novel as a male writer. I found the entire novel to be very insightful into sports culture and rape culture, both of which are often largely entwined, as well as the emotions that cause us to perceive things the way we do. It was a great novel about family, friends, sportsmanship, winning, and community (among many other things). There was so much going on in this book and so many different themes explored alongside the main theme. Definitely recommend this one for everyone! There was no part of this novel that I disliked and I think anyone can relate to the story.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Phew - what a ride! Amazing if this is really how small towns obsessed with hockey operate, but it wouldn't surprise me. Loved the strength of some of the underdogs that the author brought out along the way. Had me hanging in to see how it would all end and be resolved!
Date published: 2018-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful and Moving Like many others have said, I was feeling rather "meh" about the beginning of this book. I kept at it because I had felt that same way during "A Man Called Ove", and I had a very good friend who insisted it was one of the best books she'd ever read. Wow, am I ever glad that I did! I have never read another book quite like this one. It should be required reading in every high school. There are so many incredible characters, and the way Backman writes is like non one else. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Real Stuff. This author must have seen some crazy stuff in their day.
Date published: 2018-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the Read It takes awhile for the story to pick up which made it a bit difficult to get into but once the story does pick up, it is well written and worth the read. The characters are well developed in this book.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from powerful and beautifully written After reading A Man Called Ove - which I LOVED, I couldn't wait to read this book. Like some of the other reviews have said, the first part of the book is a little hard to get into, lots of hockey and small-town references and a ton of characters. but don't let this dissuade you - the first part of this book paints the picture of the beautiful story that follows. There were times reading this book where I had to stop, pause and take a breath before I could continue reading. There are moments of this book that take your breath away. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2018-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED!!! What an amazing story! Heartwrenching...plot twisting....just kept me wanting more...MUST READ!!!
Date published: 2018-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal POV This novel is one that I would highly recommend. Backman and structured the novel in a way that not only catches the reader, but provides astounding development and insight for his characters. He manages to take a very sensitive subject and present it in a way that all audiences can relate to.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read! This book was awesome! I loved every minute of this book. The story line was really good and very thought provoking. Heart wrenching at times.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Very topical and devastating. I absolutely loved it.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just an okay read It took a while to read this book. It's slow and does not pick up until about page 100.
Date published: 2018-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Great Book To be fair, I grew up in a hockey town, so I might be a bit biased. I very much enjoyed this novel and its characters. Would recommend!
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Paced I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a slow, lovely read.
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good for a lazy Sunday This story is about a hockey town and its people living in it. It is a story about how the culture of hockey affect this town and all people in it. I thought it was ok but not my cup of tea.
Date published: 2018-01-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from ummmm This was SO hard to get into, I wanted to give up.
Date published: 2018-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than just a hockey town story Beautifully written, this story is about a hockey town and its people living in it. It is a story about how the culture of hockey affect this town and all people in it. And important book to read
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This book was so thought provoking and has such an important lesson to be learned. Very relatable and is now one of my new favourites.
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I LOVED this book I absolutely could not put this book down. The story and the characters sucked me right in. This story is about grief and so many different experiences with it. I also love the style of writing, where the author had you knowing what was going on with each character at the same time. An absolute must read!
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from loved it! fast paced, enjoyable read!
Date published: 2018-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved It! Beartown is a very intriguing read that shows many perspectives throughout the book. Being a hockey player at high level it I found all of these perspectives very interesting and it was a book that always kept me thinking. It is much more than a book about hockey, but rather a book about a town and the many different kinds of people that keep the town alive. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2018-01-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I bought this book and loved every bit of this
Date published: 2018-01-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I was reluctant to order this book but I did! I should have gone with my but feeling because a few pages into the story I was disappointed.
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't Turn Away If Scared This Story Is JUST About Hockey - IT'S MUCH MORE! This was such a well written book and I can see why it is so highly rated. Though I found it a little hard to get into at first (and this book has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me since the start of December,) the pace picks up quickly and does not slow down from there. It did take me until I was about 20-25% into the book to feel really into it, but once I got to that point I was hooked. Fredrik has a very different writing style, and in the beginning it seemed a little redundant. Perhaps that is because I am from a small hockey town and grew up involved in the community and know how it functions. I think for someone as an outsider, what he has written is very important for them to understand the culture that surrounds this sport. The characters are so dynamic and I was moved to tears throughout this story. I strongly recommend it to anyone – please don’t feel turned off if you feel this is a ‘hockey’ story because it is so much more than that.
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great read Was enthralled by this book. It is really well written and a great story line.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This book did not hold my attention. The characters were flat
Date published: 2018-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Great! I'm not a huge sports fan, and I don't watch much hockey so I wasn't sure I was going to like this. However, this story was absolutely enthralling. The set up is a little slow but once it got going I had a hard time putting it down. Beautifully written.
Date published: 2018-01-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok A friend recommended this to me, and it was wonderful!
Date published: 2018-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top-notch literary fiction! Backman is in a league of his own! 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!
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too long Book was too long got boring really quickly
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it! Easily one of my top of 2017!
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read -- a Disturbing story I enjoyed how you get to know and understand all the different characters in this book. The story was disturbing to read how the boys club sticks together for the love of hockey vs what is right. As this story unfolds it made me angry to see how a hockey hero can do no wrong. How poorly a young lady can be treated in a world so focused on sports. I liked how they ended the book I only picked this book up as it was on the Top 10 list for 2017, I am so glad I did as it was an interesting story.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a good leisure read good read for parents with kids in hockey
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it one of the best books of 2017 and it's not hard to see why.
Date published: 2018-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed! The writing style of this book makes it very hard to put down!
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relatable and addicting read! As someone living in a small town that pushes hockey life into the young minds, I found this book incredibly relatable; seeing how hockey affects different people in different ways, as well as the influence a shared topic can have on a town, was incredibly spot on. Also the truly relatable truth of a pressing issue between the young boy and girl was very applicable to the times today. I loved this book, and it shook me to my core.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read It took a bit for this one to capture my attention but once it did I couldn’t put it down.
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I adored this book. It was quite difficult to read at parts because of the serious subject matter, but the intensity of the novel made it that much more satisfying. I would just say that it is kind of obvious that the novel was translated, but I was able to forgive the writing style because I loved (most) of the characters so much. I'll definitely be reading his other books
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read! Loved this book from start to finish. The characters were well developed with differing perspectives of the same events. It's more than a story of life in a small town or elevating athletes to near hero status; it's a story of choices, of circumstance, actions and reactions. Will read more from this author.
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from neat i have heard that this book is so good, i am really excited to read it #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Read I don't like hockey, but I did like this book. The best part for me was the ending, the first half of the book was not as good as some parts dragged on for too long. Some of the characters were really well developed though and overall this was an enjoyable read, especially for winter. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boretown? I know many people praised this novel but I'm writing this review to share my dissenting opinion for those who have read the book and disliked it but may have thought, "am I crazy for disliking it?" Here's the deal. The first quarter of the book drones on endlessly about how hockey is life for everybody in the small town. It drives the entire economy. Ok, fine. We got the message the first five times but did the author have to go on and on about this concept ad nauseam for the first 160 pages? Did the author have to introduce so many characters in those 160 pages and move abruptly back and forth between these characters and their stories so that the plot and story became choppy and disjointed and lacked flow? After the first quarter of the novel when the "big event" finally occurs, the book does become better and the story started to become more interesting and started to flow better but then, BOOM or should I say BANG? The author retreats back to his previous formula of dragging the story on and on and writing in a choppy fashion. JUST GET ON WITH THE STORY! There's a good story to be told but instead of getting on with it, the story is dragged out needlessly. A good story could have been told in 200 fewer pages with an author who could have zeroed in on the appropriate emotions of the main characters better. Another thing the author does constantly is interjects questions such as "what is community?" or "what is home?" and it feels like the author is a professor writing notes before having to give a lecture to a class of students. It's a device which further fails to advance the plot. This novel was on many best 10 books of 2017 lists and for the life of me, I can't understand why. If I had a list of one million best books, this book wouldn't make the cut. All I was wishing for in the last 100 pages was for the book to end and I ended up skimming those last 100 pages as I could bear no more of reading it normally. Again, I know many liked this book but I had to get my contrary opinion out there.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from amazing I loved everything about this book!
Date published: 2017-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved! This book had me hooked from the first page. Absolutely loved Backman's writing, and now want to read everything else he's ever written! Trigger warnings for sexual assault. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book There is something about Fredik Backman’s writing that is so compelling (although I know it has been translated). Admittedly, the pace of the novel is very slow but it is so full of small town woes nonetheless. I felt each emotion alongside the residents of Beartown and felt especially slighted and betrayed when they turned on their own kind. It was neat of Backman to give us glimpses into the future of the kids of Beartown. I just found out there’s a sequel, so I’ll definitely be looking into that!
Date published: 2017-12-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I loved it to the ending. The ending was a bit too much, but I have hope that the series will be redeemed
Date published: 2017-12-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I need to re-read this, as I rushed through it the first time because I was busy, but nonetheless, I enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Twist of Events I enjoyed this book, but would not be on the top of the list of books I'd recommend. I thought the way that the book started and the description it was going to be strictly about the hockey town, Beartown. Half way through the book everything took a turn and it was not at all what I would have expected. After I got into it I wasn't able to put it down, but it did take a while.
Date published: 2017-12-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from worth a read I enjoyed this book and think it's high time we start exploring the free pass we place on sports figures.
Date published: 2017-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best book of 2017? I say YES. This was my favourite book of 2017. Backman is so skilled at the art of writing. Would make a fantastic gift for anyone this Christmas!
Date published: 2017-12-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from enjoyable this book was okay, it gets dark sometimes but overall it was very enjoyable
Date published: 2017-12-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This book was really good and full of action in the second half
Date published: 2017-12-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Amazing author with great character development.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was okay I enjoyed the book until I hit the part at the end that tells you about their futures. It was just stupid. Skip that part and you'll feel better about the book when you put it down.
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok good book- takes a while to get into but left me wanting to read the sequel!!!
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok good book- takes a while to get into but left me wanting to read the sequel!!!
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must-Read I am a huge fan of two things: (1) hockey and (2) books that keep you guessing. This book combined both of those things. I haven't read any of the author's other books, but this one has become a personal favourite. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great Talks about issues present in our society.
Date published: 2017-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down Great character development and story overall.
Date published: 2017-12-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from not my favourite it was okay, not my taste but may be yours!
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This book consumed me. I lived in every word, and felt every feeling.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This book consumed me. I lived in every word, and felt every feeling.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This book consumed me. I lived in every word, and felt every feeling.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good book This was a good, well written book! #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Talks about issues present in our society.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I wish I could see, smell, taste ,hear, and touch this story!
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Great read. The story builds up as you go along. The beginning provides the character backdrop and context. Definitely a page turner as you progress.
Date published: 2017-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome read! Really enjoyed this book. Bought it based on the review on this site and was not disappointed! Couldn't put this book down - it's fast paced, intriguing and will make your heart race.
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Can't wait for the next one.
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh I had huge expectations for this novel and that is probably why I was so disappointed when reading it all. Though I did get through the whole novel, and it was a good read. It is not something I would read again.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved it I will admit it took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did I couldn't put it down. excellent
Date published: 2017-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! I can't say enough about this booked. I loved it from start to finish. I do not understand the comments that this is a "tough read" and has "a slow beginning". The beginning of the book is dedicated to the character development, which is essential to building the story. Without it, the rest of the book would not be successful. I haven't read a book this well written since The Nightingale. I also loved A Man Called Ove, though I would say that Beartown is an even more engaging story. This would be an excellent Christmas gift for anyone who loves hockey, small towns or just phenomenal storytelling.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I couldn't put it down I think this is my favourite of the year
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! Absolutely phenomenal writing. I felt connected to every character right from the beginning and went on an emotional journey through this incredible novel. I definitely recommend giving it a read; however, do be aware and ready for some heavy content.
Date published: 2017-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Long but a good book! It might take a while to get into but it's so incredible and captivating
Date published: 2017-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love I loved this. So touching, honest, open and relatable.
Date published: 2017-11-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as I expected A good story but not what I expected when rated so high
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Long book Heart wrenching and real. A good read.
Date published: 2017-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I’m dying for a sequel to be announced
Date published: 2017-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok It takes along time to finish
Date published: 2017-11-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from tough but worth it a tough novel to get through, but was heart wrenchingly worth each page
Date published: 2017-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good The story was beautiful and really gets you thinking about the reality of small town challanges and values. Long in some parts and of course hard to read in others (not always in agreement with what is done).
Date published: 2017-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing, Beautiful Story I received an advance copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. I’ve read a couple of other books by Backman, so when I heard this book was coming out, I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. Especially after My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes, which took a hard topic and made it accessible and easy to read, I was immediately intrigued by the event that takes place in this book to rock the hockey town. And holy macaroni, did Backman deliver. I don’t generally get emotional about books. But this book was so frustrating. Not because it was bad, or the author was making a mess of it, but because of the story itself and how much I disagree with some of the characters on a moral level. This is a hard book to read, because it isn’t the pretty picture we like to see in books of bad situations. It’s real, and it’s scary, and the characters worm their way into your heart until you start hurting when they do. The Good Points of Beartown: The first thing I really want to point out is how good the translation is. I’ve read a fair few translated books, and it often feels like something gets lost in the translation and it’s harder to connect with the story once it’s changed languages. But whomever translated Beartown did an amazing job. Definitely one of the best I’ve come across. The writing is also exquisite. There are so many beautiful lines and amazing quotes in this book that I promise you’ll fall in love with, on just about every theme you can imagine. I won’t say too much and spoil the story, but this book takes a really hard topic and forces the characters in the story as well as the reader to try and sort out where they stand on the topic. There’s no glossing over anything, and there are no rose coloured shades. It’s probably the first real depiction of the subject matter I’ve come across in books, and thank goodness, because it’s not something we should be sugar-coating. Kudos to Backman for not going easy on his characters. I love all the characters in this book, even the ones that were kind of awful. They were all so well rounded and so developed that you feel like you could be a resident of Beartown as well. They feel like your neighbours and friends, which is quite the feat considering the sheer number of them and the 400 and some pages of this book. The way that Backman paces this book is great. It’s long, there are tonnes of characters, and there’s a lot going on. But somehow, Backman pulls it all together in a way that you don’t get bogged down with one thing or another, jumps between parts of the story without leaving you hanging or sticking you with one situation or other too long. The Downsides of Beartown: There are a million and one characters in this book, which is a bit confusing early on. You mix up which kid is which and which adult belongs to which kid. You figure it out by about halfway through the book, but it’s a lot right off the bat. The beginning is a bit slow. All the stuff that happens in the early chapters is super important later on, and you appreciate it when you get there, but it does drag a bit. Even a bit of foreshadowing would have helped in the first hundred pages, just to keep you hooked in a little more. All in all, Beartown is an incredible read that you tear your heart to shreds, play on your emotions, and make you question your own beliefs and morals. I’ve never read a book that left me more angry, but in the best possible way. If you’re looking for a book that forces you to think and reconsider, know what it’s like to grow up and live in a small town, love the culture that surrounds sports, and/or aren’t afraid of heavy, serious topics, you’ll probably love this book. It’s one that everyone should read. I may actually end up doing another post related to this book, because I have a lot of thoughts, but don’t want to be including a bunch of spoilers in this review. And I’m not sure if I can rant about the things I want to without giving away some details about the story.
Date published: 2017-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from sweet A touching book. This author knows how to pull on your heart strings...
Date published: 2017-11-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Thought it was pretty good but not spectacular
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Thought it was pretty good but not spectacular
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from bearing ahead We have a lot of bears around here but they are a different kind of bear so...not sure this covers that.
Date published: 2017-11-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I found the writing a bit boastful and dull at the same time.
Date published: 2017-11-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from its a 50/50 for me. This is quite a long read the author really stretched out the story line here but it is worth it if this is the kind of thing your into.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from its a 50/50 for me. This is quite a long read the author really stretched out the story line here but it is worth it if this is the kind of thing your into.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome!!! I so excited to read his point of view. you ready know both side the story on how he feels. CAN'T WAIT!!!!
Date published: 2017-10-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Such an inspiring and interesting read, simply could not put it down! Great job!
Date published: 2017-10-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I thought I would be lost with no idea about what was going on within the story or the characters. Man, I'm happy I was wrong on that account.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I thought I would be lost with no idea about what was going on within the story or the characters. Man, I'm happy I was wrong on that account.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I thought I would be lost with no idea about what was going on within the story or the characters. Man, I'm happy I was wrong on that account.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from easy read bought this on a recommendation from a friend. .will keep you reading to find out more and see just how money talks
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from no It's not especially well-written and basically serves as millennial bait.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from excellent I love the examination of place in this novel. It's visceral and intriguing.
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story! The story was a little slow at the beginning, but once it got going it was hard to stop. I loved the variety of characters and everything they brought to the table.
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfectly Swedish Everything I've come to expect from Backman - that Swedish sense of humour is so perfect.
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Great book! Loved it very much!
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok This was an interesting read full of life lessons learned through experiencing a terrible loss. Reading this provides insight into the grieving mind along with strategies to support someone experiencing los
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dripping with Emotion You can't help but find a love and appreciation of hockey after reading this book. There is so much raw emotion dripping from each and every page that you will feel it. This is great storytelling and characters. Just sit back and enjoy. Highly recommend. #plumreviews.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok caught my attention almost immediately and I could not put it down. Great read
Date published: 2017-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down This was a read that made me question my world. As a person who is heavily involved in the hockey community it made me question what would I do. The story line was compelling, it will pull not only on your heartstrings but on your moral compass too. I definitely recommend this read but be prepared to be still pondering it well after you are done.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too slow/long for my own taste. This was my first Backman and I loved his writing. I really appreciated his style and rhythm. The book subject and his way to use it were good. However, the first half of the book seemed really long to me... like it took half the book to finally get to the point. And once we were finally there, I would have wanted more of it, but the book was over. I'll probably read another Backman in a near future to figure out if I love it or not.
Date published: 2017-10-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Overall, this book could have used some work but the general atmosphere was very gripping, and the character development was great!
Date published: 2017-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely wonderful! The same magic Backman is known to weave into his stories. Waiting for the next translation will be bothersome!
Date published: 2017-10-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I couldn't put this book down. There is always something going on that keeps you reading
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I couldn't put this book down. There is always something going on that keeps you reading
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Found it somewhat dry at times.
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I personally wasn't a big fan.
Date published: 2017-09-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This was ok I picked this up because I loved A Man Called Ove and also because of the stellar reviews this was receiving. It took me a while to get into this and finish it. I couldn't really connect with the characters. It was ok overall
Date published: 2017-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow to start but worth it in the end This book took a long time to get into, but the second half of the book was definitely worth it as others have said!
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sucks you in! Was soo good. I could not put it down! Very good read
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Read. An eloquent read, which shouldn't be defined simply by its hockey subplot. It's all about character and was very real. Will continue following this author into his other work - he clearly has a beautiful mind.
Date published: 2017-09-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok. borrowed this from a friend... we both thought it was ok, not great.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok this is such a great book! I loved the plot, storyline, and everything in between!
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from eh this was a respected, well written story, however I really had problems with some tropes and some parts just didn't seem genuine.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ok This is a nice and quick read
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes Such an inspiring and interesting read, simply could not put it down! Great job!
Date published: 2017-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes I enjoyed this book so much
Date published: 2017-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book I loved this book. At the beginning I wasn't sure that I could get into it but after that I couldn't put it down. A great story that you wanted to keep reading. The story and the characters are well developed. Makes you think about some issues and I found that it stuck with me after I was done. I would definitely recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-09-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from no This has to be the weirdest book I have read. What a bunch of descriptive nonsense
Date published: 2017-09-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes quite insightful and overall enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes quite insightful and overall enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poignant Beautiful story, only improved by the multiple POV set up. Backman at his finest.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A different read This was a different read for me. I am happy that I went outside my comfort zone for this one. As a Canadian who grew up in a hockey town, I could relate to so much of what I was reading. There were so many great messages and individual stories in this book. A really great read
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved it Fredrik Backman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His characters and storytelling are practically perfect. I can easily recommend this book to anyone. There are so many different facets to this book. Questions of morality and loyalty, passion over logic, and right vs wrong. No path through the story is easy and no solution obvious. The background story of every character is perfectly developed and important in the fine tapestry the Backman weaves. You may be surprised to discover that a story about a little hockey town far away can make you think about how you approach life in general. One final bit of awesomeness about this book. With some books you may reach the end having found one or two really great quotes. Well, when you read this, be prepared with a highlighter, page flags, etc. as almost every page has a fantastic quote that is worth remembering after the story is done. Honestly, truthfully, literally . . . Backman is good, REALLY good!
Date published: 2017-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! This book was so amazing and so fast paced it seemed like I had only just begun reading and I was hungry for more! I've been reading other reviews and I definitely agree that this book has a very Thirteen reason why vibe to it however it is written in a way more appropriate for adults. Definitely recommend!
Date published: 2017-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book- highly recommend I loved reading this book. The characters were so realistic and the story was hard to put down.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read I found the book long and at times during reading, I was questioning the mannnny great reviews on it, BUT at the end I ended up enjoying it and would recommend. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from ok It was okay, but not on my recommendations.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from ok It was okay, but not on my recommendations.
Date published: 2017-09-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Liked it Very well written. Especially liked the ending.
Date published: 2017-09-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great novel I really enjoyed this - what a great story - it really makes you think!
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great author Tugs at your heart. This authors book are great
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from nice read! not much of a hockey person but this book definitley got me hooked!
Date published: 2017-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow But Worth It Started painfully slow, had to sit down a few times and motivate myself to read it. By the third time though, I was hooked. Strong middle and ending.
Date published: 2017-08-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Cliche all the way I love this authors for Ove, but this was just such an overdone story line. There were some decent characters, but half the book felt like unnecessary back story, and it was hard to connbelieve ct with the most of the characters because they were so stereotypical. Just too easy.
Date published: 2017-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hard To Get Into But Worth It This book started off very slow with so many characters that were very hard to keep track of. However, this book is more than just a "hockey" story. It is about relationships of all kinds. If you can stick with it after the slow start I think it is worth reading.
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well Worth It This book for me started off very slow with countless characters that were very hard to keep track (I'm sure even at the end of the book I'm still not sure who everyone is). Despite the beginning being slightly exhausting I had read reviews so I knew I had to keep reading. There is a point in this book where the story completely took off and I could not put it down. Moral of this review, do not give up on this book it will not disappoint.
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved This! I bought this a Month ago and I'm so happy that I did!
Date published: 2017-08-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hard to get into, but the end ties everything in At first I could not get into the book, but the more I read the more I learned to love the book. The characters really grew on me!
Date published: 2017-08-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ups & Downs Subject matter is heavy. Characters are predictable and unrealistic, but I still found it entertaining.
Date published: 2017-08-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring Boring, pointless, not fun!
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unfullfiling Ove meets Don Cherry. Mostly predictable with cliched characters and storyline. Expectations blunted by its tedious repetition.
Date published: 2017-08-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tough subject but good read The book covers a very difficult subject, but it is interesting and well written with good characters. I am not a big hockey fan and still really enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-08-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was ok I thought it was a good plot just not for me.
Date published: 2017-08-01

Read from the Book

           1    Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.     This is the story of how we got there.             2    Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang.   It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semifinal of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.     Bang. Bang. Bang-bang-bang.     The town wakes early, like it does every day; small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world. The rows of cars in the parking lot outside the factory are already covered with snow; people are standing in silent lines with their eyes half-open and their minds half-closed, waiting for their electronic punch cards to verify their existence to the clocking-in machine. They stamp the slush off their boots with autopilot eyes and answering-machine voices while they wait for their drug of choice—caffeine or nicotine or sugar—to kick in and render their bodies at least tolerably functional until the first break.     Out on the road the commuters set off for bigger towns beyond the forest; their gloves slam against heating vents and their curses are the sort you only think of uttering when you’re drunk, dying, or sitting in a far-too-cold Peugeot far too early in the morning.     If they keep quiet they can hear it in the distance: Bang-bang-bang. Bang. Bang.     Maya wakes up and stays in bed, playing her guitar. The walls of her room are covered in a mixture of pencil drawings and tickets she’s saved from concerts she’s been to in cities far from here. Nowhere near as many as she would have liked, but considerably more than her parents actually consented to. She loves everything about her guitar—its weight against her body, the way the wood responds when her fingertips tap it, the strings that cut hard against her skin. The simple notes, the gentle riffs—it’s all a wonderful game to her. She’s fifteen years old and has already fallen in love many times, but her guitar will always be her first love. It’s helped her to put up with living in this town, to deal with being the daughter of the general manager of an ice hockey team in the forest.     She hates hockey but understands her father’s love for it; the sport is just a different instrument to hers. Her mom sometimes whispers in her daughter’s ear: “Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.” Her mom loves a man who loves a place that loves a game. This is a hockey town, and there are plenty of things you can say about those, but at least they’re predictable. You know what to expect if you live here. Day after day after day.     Bang.     Beartown isn’t close to anything. Even on a map the place looks unnatural. “As if a drunk giant tried to piss his name in the snow,” some might say. “As if nature and man were fighting a tug-of-war for space,” more high-minded souls might suggest. Either way, the town is losing. It has been a very long time since it won at anything. More jobs disappear each year, and with them the people, and the forest devours one or two more abandoned houses each season. Back in the days when there were still things to boast about, the city council erected a sign beside the road at the entrance to the town with the sort of slogan that was popular at the time: “Beartown—Leaves You Wanting More!” The wind and snow took a few years to wipe out the word “More.” Sometimes the entire community feels like a philosophical experiment: If a town falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it matter at all?     To answer that question you need to walk a few hundred yards down toward the lake. The building you see there doesn’t look like much, but it’s an ice rink, built by factory workers four generations ago, men who worked six days a week and needed something to look forward to on the seventh. All the love this town could thaw out was passed down and still seems to end up devoted to the game: ice and boards, red and blue lines, sticks and pucks and every ounce of determination and power in young bodies hurtling at full speed into the corners in the hunt for those pucks. The stands are packed every weekend, year after year, even though the team’s achievements have collapsed in line with the town’s economy. And perhaps that’s why— because everyone hopes that when the team’s fortunes improve again, the rest of the town will get pulled up with it.     Which is why places like this always have to pin their hopes for the future on young people. They’re the only ones who don’t remember that things actually used to be better. That can be a blessing. So they’ve coached their junior team with the same values their forebears used to construct their community: work hard, take the knocks, don’t complain, keep your mouth shut, and show the bastards in the big cities where we’re from. There’s not much worthy of note around here. But anyone who’s been here knows that it’s a hockey town.     Bang.     Amat will soon turn sixteen. His room is so tiny that if it had been in a larger apartment in a well-to-do neighborhood in a big city, it would barely have registered as a closet. The walls are completely covered with posters of NHL players, with two exceptions. One is a photograph of himself aged seven, wearing gloves that are too big for him and with his helmet halfway down his forehead, the smallest of all the boys on the ice. The other is a sheet of white paper on which his mother has written parts of a prayer. When Amat was born, she lay with him on her chest in a narrow bed in a little hospital on the other side of the planet, no one but them in the whole world. A nurse had whispered the prayer in his mother’s ear back then—it is said to have been written on the wall above Mother Teresa’s bed—and the nurse hoped it would give the solitary woman strength and hope. Almost sixteen years later, the scrap of paper is still hanging on her son’s wall, the words mixed up, but she wrote them down as well as she could remember them:     If you are honest people may deceive you. Be honest anyway.     If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway.     All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.     Amat sleeps with his skates by his bed every night. “Must have been one hell of a birth for your poor mother, you being born with those on,” the caretaker at the rink often jokes. He’s offered to let the boy keep them in a locker in the team’s storeroom, but Amat likes carrying them there and back. Wants to keep them close.     Amat has never been as tall as the other players, has never been as muscular as them, has never shot as hard. But no one in the town can catch him. No one on any team he’s encountered so far has been as fast as him. He can’t explain it; he assumes it’s a bit like when people look at a violin and some of them just see a load of wood and screws where others see music. Skates have never felt odd to him. On the contrary, when he sticks his feet in a pair of normal shoes he feels like a sailor stepping ashore.     The final lines his mother wrote on the sheet of paper on his wall read as follows:     What you create, others can destroy. Create anyway. Because in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and anyone else anyway.         Immediately below that, written in red crayon in the determined handwriting of a primary school student, it says:     They say Im to little to play. Become good player any way!     Bang.     Once upon a time, Beartown Ice Hockey’s A-team—one step above the juniors—was second-best in the top division in the country. That was more than two decades and three divisions ago, but tomorrow Beartown will be playing against the best once more. So how important can a junior game be? How much can a town care about the semifinal a bunch of teenagers are playing in a minor-league tournament? Not so much, of course. If it weren’t this particular dot on the map.     A couple of hundred yards south of the road sign lies “the Heights,” a small cluster of expensive houses with views across the lake. The people who live in them own supermarkets, run factories, or commute to better jobs in bigger towns where their colleagues at staff parties wonder, wide-eyed: “Beartown? How can you possibly live that far out in the forest?” They reply something about hunting and fishing, proximity to nature, but these days almost everyone is asking themselves if it is actually possible. Living here any longer. Asking themselves if there’s anything left, apart from property values that seem to fall as rapidly as the temperature.     Then they wake up to the sound of a bang. And they smile.            3    For more than ten years now the neighbors have grown accustomed to the noises from the Erdahl family’s garden: bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. Then a brief pause while Kevin collects the pucks.     Then bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. He was two and a half years old the first time he put a pair of skates on, three when he got his first stick. When he was four he was better than the five-year-olds, and when he was five he was better than the seven-year-olds. During the winter following his seventh birthday he got such a bad case of frostbite that if you stand close enough to him you can still see the tiny white marks on his cheekbones. He had played his first proper game that afternoon, and in the final seconds missed a shot on an open goal. The Beartown youngsters won 12–0, and Kevin scored all the goals, but he was inconsolable. Late that evening his parents discovered that he wasn’t in his bed, and by midnight half the town was out searching for him in the forest. Hide-and-seek isn’t a game in Beartown—a young child doesn’t have to stray far to be swallowed up by the darkness, and a small body doesn’t take long to freeze to death in thirty degrees below zero. It wasn’t until dawn that someone realized the boy wasn’t among the trees but down on the frozen lake. He had dragged a net and five pucks down there, as well as all the flashlights he could find, and had spent hour after hour firing shots from the same angle from which he had missed the final shot of the match. He sobbed uncontrollably as they carried him home. The white marks never faded. He was seven years old, and everyone already knew that he had the bear inside him. That sort of thing can’t be ignored.     His parents paid to have a small rink of his own constructed in the garden. He shoveled it himself every morning, and each summer the neighbors would exhume puck-graveyards in their flowerbeds. Remnants of vulcanized rubber will be found in the soil around there for generations to come.     Year after year they have heard the boy’s body grow—the banging becoming harder and harder, faster and faster. He’s seventeen now, and the town hasn’t seen a player with anything close to his talent since the team was in the top division, before he was born. He’s got the build, the hands, the head, and the heart. But above all he’s got the vision: what he sees on the ice seems to happen more slowly than what everyone else sees. You can teach a lot about hockey, but not that. You’re either born with that way of seeing or you aren’t.      “Kevin? He’s the real deal,” Peter Andersson, general manager of the club, always says, and he ought to know: the last person in Beartown who was as good as this was Peter himself, and he made it all the way to Canada and the NHL, matching up against the best in the world.     Kevin knows what it takes; everyone’s been telling him ever since he first stood on a pair of skates. It’s going to demand nothing less than his all. So every morning, while his classmates are still fast asleep under their warm comforters, he goes running in the forest, and then he stands here, bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. Collects the pucks. Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. Collects the pucks. Practices with the junior team every afternoon, and with the A-team every evening, then the gym, then another run in the forest, and one final hour out here under the glare of the floodlights specially erected on the roof of the house.     This sport demands only one thing from you. Your all.     Kevin has had every sort of offer to move to the big teams, to attend hockey school in a bigger town, but he keeps turning them down. He’s a Beartown man, his dad’s a Beartown man, and that may not mean a thing anywhere else, but it means something here.     So how important can the semifinal of a junior tournament be? Being the best junior team around would remind the rest of the country of this place’s existence again. And then the politicians might decide to spend the money to establish a hockey school here instead of over in Hed, so that the most talented kids in this part of the country would want to move to Beartown instead of the big cities. So that an A-team full of homegrown players could make it to the highest division again, attract the biggest sponsors once more, get the council to build a new rink and bigger roads leading to it, maybe even the conference center and shopping mall they’ve been talking about for years. So that new businesses could appear and create more jobs so that the townspeople might start thinking about renovating their homes instead of selling them. It would only be important to the town’s economy. To its pride. To its survival.     It’s only so important that a seventeen-year-old in a private garden has been standing here since he got frostbite on his cheeks one night ten years ago, firing puck after puck after puck with the weight of an entire community on his shoulders.     It means everything. That’s all.     On the other side of Beartown from the Heights, north of the road signs, is the Hollow. In between, the center of Beartown consists of row houses and small homes in a gently declining scale of middleclassness, but here in the Hollow there are nothing but blocks of rental apartments, built as far away from the Heights as possible. At first the names of these neighborhoods were nothing but unimaginative geographic descriptions: the Hollow is lower than the rest of the town, where the ground slopes away toward an old gravel pit. The Heights are on the hillside overlooking the lake. But after the residents’ finances divided along similar lines, the names came to signify differences in class as much as in districts. Even children can see that the farther away you live from the Hollow, the better things will be for you.     Fatima lives in a two-room apartment almost at the end of the Hollow. She drags her son out of bed with gentle force; he grabs his skates and soon they’re alone on the bus, not speaking. Amat has perfected a system of moving his body without his head actually having to wake up. Fatima affectionately calls him “The Mummy.” When they first reach the rink, she changes into her cleaner’s uniform and he tries to help her pick up the garbage in the stands until she shouts at him and drives him off and he goes to find the caretaker. The boy is worried about his mom’s back, and she worries that other children will see him with her and tease him. As long as Amat can remember, the two of them have been alone in the world. When he was little he used to collect empty beer cans from the stands at the end of the month to get the deposit back on them. Sometimes he still does.     He helps the caretaker every morning, unlocking doors and checking lights, sorting out the pucks and driving the zamboni, getting the rink ready for the day. First to show up will be the figure skaters, in the most antisocial time-slots. Then all the hockey teams, one after the other in order of rank. The best times are reserved for the juniors and the A-team. The junior team is now so good it’s almost at the top of the hierarchy.     Amat isn’t on the junior team yet, he’s only fifteen, but maybe next season. If he does everything that’s demanded of him. One day he’ll take his mom away from here, he’s sure of that. One day he’ll stop adding and subtracting income and expenditures in his head all the time. There’s an obvious difference between the children who live in homes where the money can run out and the ones who don’t. How old you are when you realize that also makes a difference.     Amat knows his options are limited, so his plan is simple: from here to the junior team, then the A-team, then professional. When his first wages reach his account he’ll grab that cleaning cart from his mother and never let her see it again. He’ll allow her aching fingers to rest and give her aching back a break. He doesn’t want possessions. He just wants to lie in bed one single night without having to count.     The caretaker taps Amat on the shoulder when his chores are done and passes him his skates. Amat puts them on, grabs his stick, and goes out onto the empty ice. That’s the deal: the caretaker gets help with the heavy lifting and tricky swing-doors that his rheumatism makes difficult and—as long as Amat floods the ice again after he practices— he can have the rink to himself for an hour before the figure skaters arrive. Those are the best sixty minutes of his day, every day.     He puts in his earphones, cranks the volume as loud as it will go, then sets off with speed. Across the ice, so hard into the boards at the other end that his helmet smacks the glass. Full speed back again. Again. Again. Again.     Fatima looks up briefly from her cart, allows herself a few moments in which to watch her son out there. The caretaker catches her eye, and she mouths the word, “Thanks.” The caretaker merely nods and conceals a smile. Fatima remembers how odd she thought it when the club’s coaches first told her that Amat had exceptional talent. She only understood snippets of the language back then, and the fact that Amat could skate when he could barely walk was a divine mystery to her. Many years have passed since then, and she still hasn’t got used to the cold in Beartown, but she has learned to love the town for what it is. And she will never find anything in her life more unfathomable than the fact that the boy she gave birth to in a place that has never seen snow was born to play a sport on ice.     In one of the smaller houses in the center of town, Peter Andersson, general manager of Beartown Ice Hockey, gets out of the shower, red-eyed and breathless. He’s hardly slept, and the water hasn’t managed to rinse his nerves away. He’s been sick twice. He hears Kira bustle past the bathroom out in the hall, on her way to wake the children, and he knows exactly what she’s going to say: “For heaven’s sake, Peter, you’re over forty years old. When the GM is more nervous about a junior game than the players, maybe it’s time to take a tranquilizer, have a drink and just calm down a bit!” The Andersson family has lived here for more than a decade now, since they moved back home from Canada, but he still hasn’t managed to get his wife to understand what hockey means in Beartown. “Seriously? You don’t think all you grown men are getting a bit too excited?” Kira has been asking all season. “The juniors are seventeen years old, practically still children!”     He kept quiet at first. But late one night he told her the truth: “I know it’s only a game, Kira. I know. But we’re a town in the middle of the forest. We’ve got no tourism, no mine, no high-tech industry. We’ve got darkness, cold, and unemployment. If we can make this town excited again, about anything at all, that has to be a good thing. I know you’re not from round here, love, and this isn’t your town, but look around: the jobs are going, the council’s cutting back. The people who live here are tough, we’ve got the bear in us, but we’ve taken blow after blow for a long time now. This town needs to win at something. We need to feel, just once, that we’re best. I know it’s a game. But that’s not all it is. Not always.”     Kira kissed his forehead hard when he said that, and held him tight, whispering softly in his ear: “You’re an idiot.” Which, of course, he knows. He leaves the bathroom and knocks on his fifteen-year-old daughter’s door until he hears her guitar answer. She loves her guitar, not sports. Some days that makes him feel sad, but on plenty more days he’s happy for her.     Maya is still lying in bed, and plays louder when the knocking starts and she hears her parents outside the door. A mom with two university degrees who can quote the entire criminal code, but who could never say what icing or offside meant even if she was on trial. A dad who in return could explain every hockey strategy in great detail, but can’t watch a television show with more than three characters without exclaiming every five minutes: “What’s happening now? Who’s that? What do you mean, be quiet? Now I missed what they said . . . can we rewind?”     Maya can’t help both laughing and sighing when she thinks of that. You never want to get away from home as much as you do when you’re fifteen years old. It’s like her mom usually says when the cold and darkness have worn away at her patience and she’s had three or four glasses of wine: “You can’t live in this town, Maya, you can only survive it.”     Neither of them has any idea just how true that is.  

Editorial Reviews

“A brilliant mix of belly-laughs, profound insight and captivating events delivered… with Backman's pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature."