Before I write my review, I just wanted to point out that I’ve put trigger warnings at the end of my review. Thank you for reading my review!
Having read and loved A Man Called Ove, I was super excited to buddy read this with the person who introduced me to Backman, my good friend Turkan. In saying that, Beartown by Fredrik Backman for me was a powerful read that really showcases great story telling with a meaningful premise. Even though it’s only been a few days my experience at reading this book still lingers in my mind. So many things about this book will stay with me forever and I’m sure it’ll be the same for anyone who reads this.
The novel takes place in a small town called Beartown in Sweden. The town has definitely seen better days as it is declining more and more. Industry is withering away with many people looking to live elsewhere. What does however keep this town together is their equal admiration and love the ice hockey team. The people of Beartown are most definitely crackheads for ice hockey and can’t get enough of it (and can’t get away from it ha ha ha). However, this admiration for the hockey team hides the toxic culture of the team and the some of the people in the town. You slowly begin to realise there is a large amount of sexism and toxic masculinity among the people of Beartown.
This is further highlighted when the teams most prominent and star player commits an act so heinous that you’ll want to punch him in the throat. This act essentially has a ripple effect on the town causing a major divide in loyalty that will change the lives of everyone forever.
So in terms of the writing and the pace of the story, it starts off pretty slowly. This is something I liked as Backman slowly builds up what the town and its people are like.
“The people of Beartown love the fact that the climate is so inhospitable, because not everyone can handle it: that reminds them of their own strength and resilience.”
This buildup allows you to understand what type of people the story will be dealing with and helped me understand how each of them thinks. This also allowed you to understand the complex relationship each of the characters in the story have with each other.
I also have a lot of praise for how Backman created this feeling of foreshadowing from the beginning right up until the incident that occured. Through wee hints you realise that something really awful is about to happen which keeps you on the edge right up until the last few pages. Just like A Man Called Ove, the writing is phenomenal as ever. There are so many qoutes I’ve saved and lessons one can learn by reading this especially the importance of being kind!
Now to the characters, there are many equally phenomenal characters and characters who are absolute scumbags. In saying that though, the way Backman builds them up to show their true self just shows how much of an amazing writer he is. As I said before, right from the start he carves out each of their individual personalities, traits, likes, dislikes, and so on. Essentially by the end of the book you’ll feel as if you’ve known the characters since forever. There are many characters who will stick with you for sure. Below are some characters that really stuck with me for the right reasons. There are many other characters who deserve mention but I’d rather you read the book than me spoil everything for you
The Anderson Family
Firstly we have the Anderson Family which consists of Maya, her brother Leo, and their parents Peter and Kira. Maya for me was such a strong and resilient character. After everything that happens to her she remains brave and does her utmost not to give up at gaining justice for what happened to her. It honestly crushed my heart to see her go through all of this because many of the townsfolk doubt her when she reveals what happens to her.
However, I was so happy to see her family and friends showed her all the support in the world. Her parents Kira and Peter are the definition of supportive parents. Kira is a lawyer and Peter is the General Manager of the Beartown Hockey and a legend in Beartown as he made it to NHL (until he got injured)
As you read the story you realise how tight Peter and Kira are and how much their children mean to them. Especially Kira! Kira is a lawyer and when she finds out about what happened to her daughter she goes into full Harvey Spector (lawyer from Suits) mode.
Although not a family member by blood, Maya also got a lot of support from her best friend Ana who was an absolute firework in terms of her personality. Her friendship with Maya was so wholesome and I loved how strong their bond was. They were like two sisters who just knew each other inside and out.
Fatima and Amat
What can I say expect that I absolutely adored the relationship between this mother and son duo. Having lost his father, Amat has been brought up by his kind and loving mother Fatima. Fatima works so hard to support her and her son and provide him with a good life. Amat also cares so much about his mother which really touched my heart. His mother works as a cleaner for the Ice Hockey team and this kid had the heart to help her out whenever her back was sore. Even when others took the piss out of him.
Amat faces many tough decisions throughout the story, but as expected he is able to make the right decisions. Amat was under a lot of pressure from those who would wish to have the individual who assaulted and raped get away with it. But by telling the truth he showed how proud Fatima should be for bringing up such a wonderful and kind human being.
“If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway. All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.”
Ramona is the elderly manager of the pub called Bearskin in Beartown. She hasn’t recovered since the death of her husband Holger 10 years prior and has since become a heavy drinker. Like Amat, Ramona knew to stand her ground against those who wished to see Maya not get justice for what was done to her. I absolutely loved her mentality!
“It’s never your fault, is it? When are you going to admit that it isn’t ‘hockey’ that raises these boys, it’s YOU LOT? In every time and every place, I’ve come across men who blame their own stupidity on crap they themselves have invented.”
Overall, I absolutely loved this novel and I can’t recommend enough that you pick up this book and many other novels by the amazing Frederik Backman. The book excels in what I think many great books do, making you think about your loved ones and ensuring you do the right thing! This is a book about bravery, justice, and how friendship and kindness can go a long way.
- Sexual Assault
- Victim Blaming