We’ve discovered that author Fredrik Backman has a gift for making unlikeable people quite lovable. Remember the curmudgeon, Ove, and the obsessive/compulsive Britt-Marie? Both characters wore their way into our hearts despite their quirks. We were charmed by these characters and their stories.
In Beartown, however, Backman has deviated from (I could also say he has grown away from) his successful formula and given us a novel deep in sociological truths.
Beartown is not a charming story. Beartown is a Scandinavian community that eats, sleeps, and dreams the game of hockey. The wellbeing and future of the town rest entirely on the success or failure of the high school hockey team. The star player, Kevin, is revered, fawned over and pampered. He is the center of the universe around which the rest of the community orbits. Kevin however takes a potentially fatal step when he rapes the teenage daughter of the hockey coach. The resulting tsunami of conflict, division and anger catapults the reader deep into an exploration of loyalty, values, and family.
No question, Backman is a great developer of character. Equally compelling to me is his skilled development of community. In his first three novels, A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt- Marie Was Here, community gathers around our protagonists, lifts them up and offers them friendship and love. In Beartown, community takes on a whole new depth of meaning – and some of it is pretty ugly.
No, Beartown is not a charming story. It is however, a deep and authentic story of how and who we love. It is a story of despair, desperation, and truth. In the midst of scandal, greed and violence, there is ultimately redemption in this story.
Backman has done it again in a whole new way.
Beartown comes out in hardback on April 25th.
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop