Author: Fredrik Backman
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Trigger Warning: rape
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 this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
I fell in love with Fredrik Backman’s writing in a cozy space behind a Magazine rack in Barnes and Noble as I read the entire ‘And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer’ novella. And of course, this book was just as brilliantly written and made me repeat almost every single line because I either loved it or it was too deep to understand at the first read.
The book revolves around a small town called Beartown which is only still inhabited because of it’s Ice Hockey team. But when their star player is taken into police custody for a crime right before the final, the team loses, the town collapses. Now the town cannot decide which side to take on. One will save their team and the town’s economy. The other will save their morality and the town’s safety. Both will destroy the town.
I have so many mixed feelings about this. Of course, I love Backman’s voice, his artistic way of presenting the story. Besides, he handles serious issues carefully but also realistically. As it’s set in a small town, it portrays a lot ignorant unlikable people. There’s homophobia, rape jokes and all sorts of locker room talks of that kind among them, but the book does better to shut them up.
The book is 400+ pages, and I will say totally worth it, but at the same time, I can’t quite scream out WORTH IT! Yes, I know, I’m not always an adult book enthusiast and that makes me less appreciative of the age category, but I still feel like everything could have happened faster. Most of it was just establishing voice and settings, that the plot advancement was too slow.
As for the characters, there was something that felt too stretchy as well. There were a few dozen POV, and most of them were very one-dimensional and didn’t get the chance to fully develop throughout the story. I felt like only Benji had a complete character arc. I loved Maya and Ana’s characters as well, but Ana’s character development was more interesting although the story revolves more around Maya. Everyone else was halfway there, or wasn’t moving at all.
Overall, I’d recommend it for its engaging plot, artistic voice and a vivid imagery.