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Beartown: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 433 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I rolled my eyes at the hockey town theme for about 50 pages and then got lost in Beartown. This book is not really about hockey, but about a crumbling town far from anywhere that has nothing but hockey and the people who are in it. The residents of Beartown have known each other forever. The happenings and how the personalities bounce off each other in such human ways (hatefully and lovingly) makes this a fascinating and unforgettable book.
This book is not at all like the Ove book except that it is written by a genius of human understanding.
I also do not like stories about fictional crimes. I retired from a career as a criminal defense lawyer with more than one hundred jury trials to my credit most of which were murder cases. Fictional crimes frequently read as silly nonsense to me. Real crime is ugly, stupid, and frequently violent and not the thing you'd make polite conversation about let alone an entertainment. This book is about a serious fictional crime.
There you have two reasons why I should not like this book but I'm giving it 4 stars. I'd give it 5 stars but it disappoints me for another reason. I discovered this author a little over 2 years ago when my wife insisted I read his book "A Man Called Ove". I did as my wife asked....reluctantly, but I loved that book and became a fan of the author. I have since read all of his subsequent books and marveled at his artistry and storytelling ability. Alas, in this book that storytelling talent seems to be a bit lacking as the plot of this book is almost cliche and therein lays my disappointment. The plot involves a youth hockey team in a dying small backwoods town. The town's sole remnant of pride rests in this team and they have just won the big game and are on the way to the national finals. A win means a resurrection for the town and economic gains. During a post-game celebration a crime is committed involving a star player of the team. Up until this point we have all seen or read this story before. It usually involves a small rust-belt town in the North or a dried-up town in Texas and the sport is usually football. Totally predictable, but wait. We have Fredrik Backman as the author of this "cliche" and this isn't like him, at least not as far as I've read so far. Am I going to have to give this book a low rating and a bad review?
After the crime is committed is when the meat of the story and Backman's talent take off. From this point the author dissects this town, its organizations, its values, its motivations, its residents, their relationships, their values, their vices and their virtues. Never have I read such a magnificent portrayal of human behavior in all its imperfections. Backman's observations of the human condition are remarkably accurate and laid bare for everyone to see. I have dealt with countless behavioral scientists in my professional life and none of them were ever able to describe human behavior as well as this author has done in this book. A stunning achievement and a book that deserves to be read. (less)
I read it in one sitting, for it reads like a thriller, even though it's all flashback. Backman's previous books have been wise and funny and a little tragic, but this is a masterpiece. It centers on a small town seeking glory from its hockey club. I know these kids and these families and so will you. You'll recognize "how we got here", too. Backman brings to life their hopes and dreams, frustrations and difficulties--adults and teens alike. "Beartown" should be read and discussed in every high school; it's topical and yet these events have happened for centuries. It takes place in Sweden, but could be any small town in America, too. In sports and life what we hope our children learn is to make good choices in a very un-ideal world. Fiction is a way to enter into an age-old discussion framed so beautifully by one of the characters: "This town doesn't always know the difference between right and wrong...but we know the difference between good and evil." What is the right thing to do when things go very wrong? You'll be compelled to find your answer. Backman is the Dickens of our age, and though you'll cry, your heart is safe in his hands.