May 2, 2017
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, comes a poignant, charming novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal, and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything. Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated general manager whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy. At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the general manager’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear. Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in this emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people's dreams on our shoulders.
I've been a big fan of Mr. Backman since reading his novel A Man Called Ove. This is my fourth of his novels that I've read, and it was fantastic! I don't know if anything will ever top Ove (there's just something about that curmudgeon that I'll never forget), but this came pretty darn close. I loved reading about the various characters in this small town, where the only thing that exists is the love of hockey. While I don't think you have to be a sports fan to enjoy this book, it certainly adds that extra element of "love for the game" that we sports fans can relate to. While the second half of the book deals mostly with a pretty heavy subject, it was the characters that drove this story for me (I loved Benji to the moon and back!). I found myself completely engrossed in their lives, and rooting for them right along with the hockey team. Backman has such a wonderful way of creating scenes and drawing you in, that you feel like you are there in the story. I appreciate the fact that his resolutions to each character's story were not all rainbows and roses, this is a much more realistic look at life with its ups and downs.
An absolutely marvelous look at small town life with wonderfully crafted characters. I just loved it!