People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded town. And that rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior hockey team is about to compete in the national championships, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of the town now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
A victory would send star player Kevin onto a brilliant professional future in the NHL. It would mean everything to Amat, a scrawny fifteen-year-old treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice. And it would justify the choice that Peter, the team’s general manager, and his wife, Kira, made to return to his hometown and raise their children in this beautiful but isolated place.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Hers is a story no one wants to believe since the truth would mean the end of the dream. Accusations are made, and like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
I will admit although I love Fredrik Backman’s writing style, I was a bit leery about reading this book because it is focused around hockey and I am not a big fan of hockey. Well, I joined yet another social media forum dedicated to books called Litsy and decided to participate in this month’s read-along and Beartown was the novel. Boy, am I glad that I did.
This book captivates you with the first chapter which is literally only a few lines long but because of Backman’s writing style, more isn’t needed. This story develops around Beartown and it’s youth hockey teams. Hockey is the heart of this town like football would be in other towns. As the story develops you get the feeling that this youth hockey team carries the fate of the town on its shoulders. The A-team has a big game coming up and if they win it could mean more opportunities for the town itself. The boys have been groomed to be winners. They train hard and play even harder. About a week before their big game, Kevin, one of the best players on the team throws a party while his parents are out of town. At this party there is an incident. Although nothing is said right away about it, there is a witness to the incident. Of course at this party, drugs and alcohol are involved.
Everyone involved in this particular incident tries to go on as if nothing has happened but then the dam breaks and the secret is brought to life, the day of the big game for the team and their star player is taken away. Once the secret is brought to life, you get to see how far some of the people in the town are willing to go to protect their hockey program.
This story also makes you question loyalty. How far are you willing to go to be loyal. What type of loyalty should you have and does loyalty not involve being loyal to yourself?
The town in divided with some thinking and feeling kids will be kids and the other half who doesn’t feel that way are too scared to speak up on what they think is right. How far should adults go when trying to protect their children or even just their own livelihood? You get to witness parents sacrifice everything they have and believe in. You see parents who question their own parenting styles. Blind eyes are turned, deaf ears are tuned in.
Backman’s writing style and development of the story grabs you and takes you on an intense ride that you don’t want to end. He also writes stories that make you think.
This story features bullying, intimidation, fear, strength, courage, secrets and most of all family dynamic.
I highly recommend this novel for fans of Backman and even those who haven’t read his writing yet. This is a story that is happening everywhere in real life and needs to be addressed one way or another.
I gave this book 4.5 stars and I am looking forward to the sequel.
Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio from wherever you purchase books.