Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Published: 25th April, 2017
Goodreads
Series: Björnstad #1
Rating: 5

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
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.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


Beartown is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a book about small town communities, mothers, fathers, team spirit, the sort of friends you have when you are fifteen, the love of hockey, and loyalty: to your team, to your family, to your town.

There are few words that are harder to explain than ‘loyalty’. It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.

It’s dark and uncomfortable at places, but there’s always a glimmer of hope.

This book was an emotional roller coaster for me. I come from a small town myself, and know all too well how it feels when all eyes are on you and there’s no way to blend in to the faceless crowd.

There are thousands of ways to die in Beartown. Especially on the inside.

It takes great skills to manage such a large cast of characters efficiently, and Fredrik Backman does just that. All their unique voices come through clearly, hitting you in the feels with great precision. Beartown sucks you in, makes you wonder about the same things that occupies many of its inhabitants minds. Can winning a hockey match be more important than people? Even if that hockey is the town’s only chance of survival? Or are they just closed minded to think it is, and there would actually be other ways?

It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semi final of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.

The town’s economy is dwindling, but there are still people who do much better than others. We get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and the poor just the same, and they all have their own struggles. Not even the most privileged ones have an easy time here.

A great deal is expected of anyone who’s been given a lot.

A horrible act is committed, and in its wake personal tragedies unfold. Nobody seems to be untouched by the events one way or another. The small community is divided. We, as readers are right there when the crime is committed, the silent witnesses all the nastiness. Yet, I think, there will still be some among us whose outrage will be entirely misplaced. I often entertain the idea that we, bookish people are gentle souls with open minds and a great sense for right and wrong. The truth is, people are people and some of us will bend the story out of shape, just to support our own ideas and beliefs, no matter how warped they might be.

They are probably people who live secure lives, who are surrounded by people who share their own opinions and only talk to people who reinforce their own worldview.

What can a friendship survive?

Beartown is not about happy endings. This is what I love so much about Scandinavian authors, TV series, and films. They are not afraid of the dark. They embrace it, and make it okay somehow.

This book will make you ask some very uncomfortable questions to yourself.

There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.

P.S. For us, UK folks, this was published as The Scandal.


Get Beartown on Amazon UK (hardcover).

Reading Prompt: A book that involves a bookstore or library #39

According to the diploma I obtained at uni, I’m a librarian. I mean, information scientist, to be precise. Although I have always dreamed about working in a library, spending time among books, I’ve never actually had a job in one. Based on all the stories I’ve read involving librarians, I probably romanticized the idea way too much.

Part of one my uni assignments was to spend sixty hours in our town’s library, and damn, was it awful! I admit, I probably wouldn’t have hated it so much if I got a placement in a nicely equipped library, packed full with all the latest tech, but the lack of working equipment and the constant darkness (the building was an old synagogue) put me off pretty well. We still used those old school index catalogues that were basically little printed index cards in a massive chest of drawers. Good luck finding shit! Before anyone quips in that it was perfectly acceptable in the ’80s, let me make one thing clear: we are talking about 2007.

So, for now I’m just going to stick to books about librarians and quirky little bookstores, where my sentimental ideas live on uninterrupted.

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
A mystery set in Coppenhagen. After the violent death of Luca Campelli his son, Jon, inherits Luca’s bookshop Libri di Luca, and all sorts of suspicious stuff starts happening.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Danger, clues, secret societies are only a few things Irene, a spy for the mysterious Library, will face in this story while collecting books from other realities.

Adrian Mole: The Capuccino Years by Sue Townsend
Adrian Mole, whom we first met when he was 13 and 3/4 years old, is now all grown up and is working in a book shop. He still writes his diary, and he’s still an annoyingly funny intellectual. I have read this book many times, but I’m tempted to pick it up again.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
Lydia, a bookstore clerk, investigates the death of a customer after she inherits his books filled with mysterious and disturbing messages.

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Jess Brightwell, son of a black market book smuggler, is sent to apply for a scholar position at the Library, where they value knowledge more than human life.

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with an ugly cover #38

This is probably one of the most subjective prompts. What do you find aesthetically pleasing? What fills you with absolute horror?

I went through my ever growing list of books I want to read and picked the ones I’ve been putting off for ages, purely because of their dreadful covers. Yes, I’m shallow.

So, I’m going to close my eyes, and give these uglies some love.

Eleven Kind of Loneliness by Richard Yates
A collection of short stories exploring loneliness, failure, heartbreak, and the potentials of purple font in one’s cover design choices…

Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
A shortish sci-fi gem about Red Schuhart, a stalker, who ventures into the Zone to collect mysterious artifacts left behind by aliens. Stalker, the famous movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky was loosely based on this book.

Accelerando by Charles Stross
A sci-fi story set somewhere between 2010 and 2015, involving cutting edge of intelligence amplification technology and a robot cat. Meow!

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
A testosterone filled fantasy story set in a futuristic, dystopian world and an alternate reality called Overworld. If this is not epic, then I don’t know what is… The buff dude on the cover is all right, I can live with that, but damn, those fonts look proper heavy!

Parable of the Sower by Olivia E. Butler
A coming of age story set in a near future (2025) where people live in small, walled communities to protect themselves from the drug crazed scavengers.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
A science fiction story set in our present days, revolving around an event called the Big Blackout that made all the stars go out at once. No more romantic, stare gazing dates… There was a time at some point in my kindergarten years when I also loved combining green with a lot of purple.

Dark Water by Koji Suzuki
A short story collection by the author of the Ring. Need I say more? Bonus: once you start reading, you won’t see the cover.

If you need more inspiration to find ugly covers, you can join us in the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group.

Happy hunting!