A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman- Feature and Review


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.


MY REVIEW: Beartown

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a 2017 Simon & Schuster publication.

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.

Fredrik Backman won me over with ‘Brit- Marie was Here”. I have since read most of his other books, or at least have them in my ‘to read’ list, which means I feel I have become accustomed to the author’s style of writing by now.

However, when this book was released, gossip and loud whispers suggested this one may be a little bit of a departure from what I was used to. However, I trusted the author enough not to let that deter me.

Still, even with those advanced warnings, I found myself ill prepared for the deep impact this novel would have on me.

Hockey is the life blood for ‘Beartown’, a small community without much else going for it. While, hockey is ‘just a game’, it takes on new connotations in Beartown.

The junior team is preparing for the semi-finals, and the entire town is beside itself over it. The story centers around the team, the coaches, and their families who are affected by the town’s fever pitch excitement.

We know something went horribly awry from the very beginning. This knowledge creates a sinister and edgy feeling that followed me from start to finish. I understood the mentality of the hockey enthusiast, not because I know the first thing about hockey, because I don’t, but because I’ve seen that type of hysteria first hand in my own hometown, only with football being the sport of choice.

 That a sport can become like a God to be worshiped, that it is responsible for keeping the town afloat, by becoming a source of influx of revenue, it’s success making or breaking the livelihood of the coaches and their families, and being responsible for the morale of the residents in general, is distressing. But, to see kids living their lives without a spotlight on the arts or education, or presented with other opportunities is sad enough, but also seeing them forced into carrying such a heavy burden on their young shoulders is a disturbing and troubling setup.

However, not everyone is defined by the game of hockey in Beartown. Ironically, they seem to end up being the ones impacted by it the most.

Despite the much darker tone of the novel and the high pitch emotions involved, it is important to see the loyalty, the integrity, the courage and intelligence of those who stand up for what is right, consequences be damned. It is uplifting to see family stick by each other, to see those priorities in place, to see rock solid friendships, unlikely heroes, and unconditional love at its finest.

The cast of characters still embodies the author’s trademark quirkiness at times, but in this novel he doesn’t mask the sadness, anger, or other emotions behind the offbeat charm or dysfunction of the characters, like we’ve seen in the past. To do otherwise would have been an injustice to this story and I feel the author approached this material soberly, handled it with great care and precision, and nailed the situations, as they played out in an all too realistic fashion.

The justice we all feel is necessary doesn’t take place in the orthodox way, but in some ways the powerful equalizer that takes its place is enough to satisfy me. I liked the ending, was pleased by the way things worked out, and the powerful way the author allowed the suspense to build to an almost unbearable pitch while soothingly assuring us all will be well.

I’m not a person who believes an author must write one dimensional material. It’s sad that some readers insist they do, often complaining that one book is not exactly like the others he or she as written. I love it when an author steps out and broadens their scope. Sometimes it fails spectacularly, but sometimes it catapults them to an entirely new level.

With Beartown, Fredrik Backman has done just that.





Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty five territories. His latest novel is BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog: FredrikBackman.com, on twitter @backmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.

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