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Beartown: A Novel Paperback – February 6, 2018
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"Dovetail" by Karen McQuestion
From the author of Hello Love comes a spellbinding new novel of enduring love, family secrets, and mysterious death. | Learn more
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"Compelling characters and a wrenching story, beautifully told." ― The New York Times Book Review
“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
“Lest readers think hockey is the star here, 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
“The sentimentally savvy Backman...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
About the Author
- Lexile measure : 840L
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 150116077X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501160776
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 1.1 x 8.25 inches
- Publisher : Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (February 6, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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 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.
Top reviews from other countries
Beartown is an ice hockey town, the sport so tightly woven into its fabric as to define its very existence. The town and its people live and breathe hockey, they socialise through hockey, and they look to hockey to make the town great again. The club is on the cusp of its greatest achievement for a generation: its junior team has made it to the finals of the national league. Winning would mean everything: recognition for the town, increased sponsorship and even a new stadium. Excitement is at fever pitch, when driven by his godlike status, the team’s star player commits a single act that threatens to wreck everything the club and the town have worked for.
I found the first quarter of the book - the scene setting - hard going So many characters were introduced, it was difficult to keep track of them all and figure out who were the main protagonists. It was also hard to pick up any sense of a plot, as the narrative seemed very vague and rambling. What sucked me in and kept me reading, though, was the dark, brooding atmosphere and the oppressive imagery, which are both compelling and unsettling. The narrative explodes about half way through, and from then on is a heart-stopping, breathtaking read.
Beartown boasts a rich and memorable cast of characters, each and every one of them lifelike and convincing. As different as they all are, as a reader, you can relate to, or at least understand what drives them, even the most unlikeable of them. And this, I think, is one of Backman’s greatest talents: the ability to delve deeply into the hearts and souls of his characters and present them as multifaceted human beings with emotions, foibles and contradictions.
I’m so glad I persevered with this book. The more I think about it, the more I come to appreciate its brilliance. Backman’s depiction of morality versus a small forest town’s desire for glory is both compelling and keenly observed. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
Beartown is a small community that has only one thing going for it- ice hockey. Virtually, all the boys/men want to be in the team, or part of the set up, either by sponsorship or coaching/management. Success will put Beartown 'on the map'. The recruitment of boys to the team, in some cases, has a detrimental effect on their social development. Those 'up the ladder' and ardent followers will do anything to avoid bad press and ensure the best for the teams. The first part of the storyline gives background of the characters and the obsession of the townsfolk with ice hockey. Then following a win, Kevin the star player of the junior team, holds a party during which a nasty attack takes place. This splits the community as to who and what they believe to be true.
It was at this point in the book that I couldn't put it down. It's heart rending and engrossing. Backman gives depth to all the characters, even those with small parts within the plot. He's a very talented author.
Don't give up on this in the beginning else you'll be losing out.
My one quibble is the odd choice to change the title in the UK.
Beartown itself is almost a character, such is the sense of place.
Choosing to call it " The Scandal", diminishs the crime Kevin committed and has a whiff of prurience that I don't believe the author would accept. Bad decision by the publishers-it should ave remained "Beartown" and the reader left to label what happened there for themself.
I live in a town next to the small town where I grew up and that sense of claustrophobia that comes with a tight knit community rings true. I’m also the mother of sons who play a sport that has huge community buy in and involvement at the same club where their dad, my husband still plays, that my dad played and sits on the committee of a competing team. It’s a different sport (rugby not ice hockey) in a different country (Wales not Sweden), the kids teams even have the same nickname “the Bears” but again, this book is the first I’ve read that gets that essence, not just the “soccer mom” trope of American chick lit but something more. As Backman puts it: “The children’s hobbies aren’t only the children’s hobbies – the parents put just as many hours into them, year after year, sacrificing so much, paying out such huge amounts of money, that their significance eats its way even into adult brains.”
The rape that the plot centres around is the catalyst for change, it’s the watershed moment that throws the community and characters off course. It raises issues and themes that are so current even though the book is now 3 years old. The language used, the victim blaming, toxic masculinity, consent, power, privilege, it’s all in there. One reviewer mentioned something about not wanting to read about such nasty things but I think if you can’t explore these issues in literary fiction we’re in dangerous world of ignorance. There’s room for sunshine and buttercups in comedy but in a drama, a mystery, a novel, it’s not violence for the sake of violence, it’s to start a conversation, challenge the thinking of the reader and good literature has always tackled and portrayed the horrors of life as well as the joy.
This novel, like Backman’s previous works, is at heart about the human condition, it focusses on what’s dear to us. It’s intergenerational, it’s about community.
I know jack all about ice hockey but it wasn’t a barrier. I read a fair few comments on negative reviews here about it not living up to the hype. That’s the trouble with hype. For me, I’m glad I read Bear Town. I’m currently on series 3 of Thirteen Reasons Why (I read the book a couple of years ago) and there are many parallels, the power of a huge sports team of teenagers, the establishment backing a rapist from a successful and powerful family over the victim, all of that. It’s terrifying to read and watch as a mother of sons who are approaching their teen years. But then I remember that I’ve brought them up not to feel entitled, to respect other people and that their sports coaches instil a team ethic yes but they also expect them to be helpful, respectful and empathetic.