Friday, May 26, 2017

What we're reading: Beartown

Reviewed by Andrea B-K, circulation clerk

Beartown is a novel by Fredrik Backman, author of the popular A Man called Ove, as well as My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

The first thing you need to know about Beartown is that it is an isolated hockey town. It is such a small town that, if it doesn’t reverse its economic trends, it will dwindle away, and the only thing that can save it is its young hockey team. But this is not a Friday Night Lights-type book with an uplifting message. Something has gone terribly wrong in Beartown, and Backman uses hockey and a specific incident to examine all the social spheres in the book, from the micro to the macro. It would spoil the book to be more specific, because half the power of the writing comes from the story's slow reveal. I will, however, caution you that the pivotal moment is captured with disturbing details but it is not gratuitously graphic.

Backman plays to the strengths of his earlier books: He is so good at showing the interplay between individuals and their communities, and he makes it so easy to empathize with his characters. It was a hard book for me to finish, in that the action in this book to which everyone was responding was so divisive and ugly. Great book, though. Stick with it, but don't expect the hot cocoa-type comfort of his previous books. It's more of a shot of whiskey: It burns going down, but gives you a slight glow afterwards!

Editor's note: BPL owns this as both a book and an audio book (on CD).

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