Staff Review: Beartown – Daniel Boone Regional Library

Staff Review: Beartown

Beartown book cover

“Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.”

I have said it before, but I will say it again: Fredrik Backman has become one of my favorite authors! And he definitely does not disappoint with “Beartown.” I have to admit that I was a little hesitant with this one: the story is set in a hockey town and centered around the sport. I’m not a huge sports fan to begin with, and I grew up with football, not hockey. But the story is more about the community of a sports town and what that means, both the good and the bad.

“It’s only a game. It only resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.”

Community is a theme through all of Backman’s books. This one examines authority — who has authority in a community? Who is believable and who has to prove their word? It also explores loyalty. Loyalty is a good thing — until it’s not. Backman takes a look at family and our responsibilities to them. The book considers “teams” and how they support or drag on a person. It also touches on violence.

“Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.”
Really, Beartown could be any town. The sport could be football, baseball or soccer. But the “Bang. Bang. Bang.” of the puck echoes the “Bang! Bang! Bang!” of the shotgun so perfectly. “Beartown” lacks some of the whimsy of Backman’s other books, but it is no less poetic. Many phrases are repeated but from different perspectives of other characters. There are so many voices in this book, but they are all necessary for the complexity and clarity of the story.
“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.”
Backman has created something magical even if it’s not the feel-good book he’s written before. There are still plenty of moments that are hopeful and heartwarming. He includes a beautiful balance of diversity without it feeling contrived. He also examines forgiveness.
I highly recommend this one. It may be my favorite book of the year — so far, anyway. But it will take a lot to top it.