Beartown, by Fredrik Backman

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If you have heard of Fredrik Backman, you probably have read his heart-warming novel A Man Called Ove. It was a New York Times bestseller, and also made into an international movie. This novel, Beartown, is a step in a different direction for his writing style. And the step is in a beautiful, groundbreaking way, and left me admiring a truly great writer. This novel felt as if I was looking at a snow globe, first seeing what instantly catches your eye. But as you look closer, and see the details of the town, the people, and their values, you begin to see so much more.

This novel is full of sentences that carry enough weight to knock you over . I tagged and re-read these strong passages, and they just resonate so deeply with a reader. And after I had read this book, those phrases continue to run though my head. The thing about this book is that even though it’s fiction, it could realistically happen to anyone. As a reader your heart breaks for all these characters, the parents, the teenagers, and the team. They are all put into situations where morals and ethics are blurred. Backman uses the hockey team as a vessel to discuss how a community handles touch situations, and who they rally with.

beartown-tags.jpgIf you are looking for a book to uplift you, this may not be the one for you. But if you are interested in a book that makes you look into the culture of a community, and makes you examine how different people react to the same situation… then this one is for you!

Beartown is a town in Northern Sweden, of whose heart beats to the rhythm of hockey. For generations the men in this town played hockey, and continue to root for their team. When the junior hockey team stands a shot at winning the national semi-finals, the whole town puts the pressure on the team to win. The semi-finals provoke a traumatizing event for a young girl, the team, and shatter their families. It is here where a community finds itself unable to pick up the pieces so easily after this traumatizing event, and confused on which side they should be fighting for.

Growing up in a hockey town in Canada, this novel just gets the hockey culture. If you grew up in the rink, you can probably think of the parent who cussed at the ref, and the other parents. You probably remember the player who hustled like no other, the one who scored all the goals, and the one who threw all the punches. This novel brought to focus on how a parent’s actions and morals were transferred to their child’s actions. It also showed everyone how hockey is such a small game, but plays a large part in a community and a child’s life.

The most dangerous thing on the ice is being hit when you’re not expecting it. So one of the first things hockey teaches you is to keep your head up, always. Otherwise- bang.

As a parent of a toddler and a baby, I recognize that it’s hard for me to relate to the parent of a teenager. But something that I can understand is the depth of the love a parent has for their child. There were many different types of parent/child relationships in this book, and reading of the kid’s whose parents believed in hard love, so their child would be strong was a hard one to see. It really brought to light that because this boy’s parents weren’t capable of showing him love, he wasn’t capable of it either. Meanwhile another character’s mother teaches him to be kind and nice above all, and when push comes to shove, he stands up for the truth and what is morally right.

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. Be good anyway.

The characters in this novel are etched out so carefully that I felt as if I could picture their faces, expressions, and feel their emotions. Although Beartown is a small community, it tackles some big topics. It addresses sexuality in a small community, the stigma of rape, and the depth of loyalty. I won’t give anything away for those who haven’t read it, but Benji and Amat were without a doubt my favourite characters. These two young men were so true to their morals, and as a parent that is all you wish for. Then there was also an example of a beautiful friendship between Maya and Ana, which to any girl who has had that best friend you spent every waking moment with understands.

Never again do you find friends like the ones when you’re fifteen years old.

My last attempt to persuade you to read this novel is from the mouth of Fredrik Backman, I recently listened to an interview with him and I’m paraphrasing but it was along these lines, “When you write from the heart, people can heart it through your voice. People have a bullshit meter, and can feel something.” What’s so cool about Backman is that he’s an amazing writer, but he’s also pretty badass!! Plus his dedication of this novel was what really hooked me.

Anywho, if you have read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, do yourself a favour… and read it!

 

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