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Beartown: A Novel Hardcover – April 25, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: How do I love Beartown? Let me count the ways. It’s a domestic drama in which a family is pulled apart by an act of violence. It’s a coming-of-age story for a young woman who must choose to speak out or keep silent. (And a young man, too, actually.) It’s a slow-build thriller, opening the story with the statement that one teenager is going to put a shotgun to the head of another and pull the trigger. It’s a cautionary tale of small-town thinking…yet at the same time celebrates how a handful of people can change a tight-knit community. Beartown has so much going on within its enjoyably readable pages that putting it in a literary box is all but impossible—and indeed that is one of the many reasons readers will pass this book amongst one another with a confident “I think you’ll like this.” As the town’s finances decline, small, scrappy Beartown hunkers deeper into itself, proud only of its white-hot junior hockey team led by a coach whose hard-driving mantra is, simply, “Win.” Seizing the upcoming hockey championship could lure a new hockey academy their way and jumpstart the local economy. But the exposure of a hidden crime sweeps the hockey club into its vortex and fractures the town and longtime friendships, even as it welds together new, unlikely alliances. Once the crime is revealed, Beartown could have strolled down an easy trail, but Backman refuses to tread it, sidestepping the predictable as he forges a new path of soul-searching and truth-telling. There are hard moments here, and readers might find difficult discoveries in their own hearts as the people of Beartown struggle with what they hope is real but fear is not. Masterful in its storytelling and honesty, this is another winner for Backman, surpassing even his much-lauded A Man Called Ove. —Adrian Liang, The Amazon Book Review
PRAISE FOR BEARTOWN
“Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic. . . There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor. . .Like Friday Night Lights, this is about more than youth sports; it's part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman's latest will resonate a long time.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[It's] Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on an insular town. While the story is dark at times, love, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and family shine through ultimately offering hope and even redemption.” (Publishers Weekly)
"Another solid offering from best-selling Swedish author Backman, with many parallels for American readers and small towns everywhere." (Library Journal)
"The sentimentally savvy Backman (A Man Called Ove, 2014) takes a sobering and solemn look at the ways alienation and acceptance, ethics and emotions nearly destroy a small town and young people." (Booklist)
"[A] slow burn of a novel about a community that pours all its hopes into a youth hockey team. Think Friday Night Lights for Swedes." (O, The Oprah Magazine)
"As popular Swedish exports go, Backman is up there with Abba and Stieg Larssson." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Backman is the Dickens of our age, and though you'll cry, your heart is safe in his hands." (Green Valley News (Arizona))
“There are, in the end, real acts of bravery and sacrifice in this appealing novel.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Mr. Backman cements his standing as a writer of astonishing depth and proves that he also has very broad range plus the remarkable ability to make you understand the feelings of each of a dozen different characters. . . . The story is fully packed with wise insights into the human experience causing characters and readers to ponder life’s great question of who we are, what we hope to be and how we should lead our lives.” (The Washington Times)
“This novel was well worth reading, and I embrace what I learned from it.” (The Missourian)
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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 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.
Published: April 25, 2017
I read some reviews saying that this book is the stereotypical sports drama. But I feel apparently we need repetition because a lot of sports parents are doing the same dangerous things to their teen athlete. Until the lesson about the cult of sports is learned, repetition is needed. Until we deal with sexual assault among athletes, repetition is needed.
Beartown; a town of broken people, a factory being the primary employer, and the weather always so cold that it even challenges the wildlife living there. The town needs hope and they think sports can bring it. But with sports comes politics, breaking the souls of its people even more. It's no longer "play with your heart" but "win".
Keven, the rich kid with driven seeking parents, is the star player competing against Beartown.
"My parents aren't interested in hockey".
Benjamin: "What are they interested in?"
But because Kevin is a star athlete, he takes advantage of it in classes calling his female teacher, "sweet cheeks" and he is never disciplined as the town needs its star.
The author does a good job at letting the reader feel the familiar stages of being a teenager:
"We become what we are told we are. Anne was always told she was wrong."
A good author can say a lot without dragging out the scenario, and Beartown doesn't disappoint. This novel is filled with wise insights into the human experience causing characters and readers to ponder life’s great question of who we are.
One of the highlights of this story is when Amat was used by David [the coach for Beartown] as a " sacrifice" to let a team member when at practice before their big game. But Amat fought the 90lb. heavier player and got his place on the team. And what happens to the bully’s heart later on is heartwarming.
Amat also Is just a character to root for:
"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 is one of the heroes of this story; he had to rise above so much. The focal point is him and Keven facing off and Amat wins for Beartown.
Not only that, but it's Amat who witnesses and reports Kevin's rape of the general manager's daughter. This takes such strength; Amat sets himself up to be a model character for all teens.
Backman thoughtfully sets up the events leading to the sexual assault and the reader sees all the racism and classism and sexism of the community. For the author being a high school dropout, he can definitely articulate human nature.
This novel is for all who are bullied, because one day you too will be, “the lion among the bears".
This novel is for parents because they need to be reminded of that drunken victory party, where the GM’s teenage daughter, Maya, was assaulted by a star player, and the town must come to terms with its hockey-over-all-else mentality.
This novel is for the Christian who has a mean-spirited temper toward gays because Benjamin is the other hero of the story. Let’s remember there is a person behind Biblical disagreements.
Lastly, this novel is for all of us because we need to be reminded about the cult of celebrity in sports.