“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.
Book I Read: “The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue
Why I Checked It Out: The author already has one critically-acclaimed book under her belt (“Room”) so I was curious to see if she had created another. The story features a nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, so it promised to deliver a strong female protagonist, which is another factor that drew me to it. And lastly, it contained an element of mystery, which I figured would be sure to pull me in. Continue reading “Staff Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue”
Book I Read: “Jade Dragon Mountain” by Elsa Hart
Why I Checked It Out: I’m always up for a good mystery, and I occasionally dabble in historical fiction, so this seemed like a good choice. It also didn’t hurt that the main character, Li Du, is a librarian. Continue reading “Staff Book Review: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart”
As a young adult, I sometimes feel like a fraud — a kid just playing pretend at being a grownup. I think most people have feelings like this occasionally, but the unnamed narrator in Gillian Flynn’s latest is a fraud and has made a living at it her entire life. Growing up poor, she and her mother would beg on the streets, and they had an intricate system: they knew who to ask, how to ask, when to embellish and which specific embellishment to use on a particular mark.
As “The Grownup” opens, the narrator makes ends meet by a rather unsavory profession, which she simply calls working in “customer service.” When she gets the chance to work as (read: pretend to be) a psychic, she jumps on it, knowing that her ability to manipulate people would make for easy money. She takes on Susan as a client, a housewife with a rocky relationship with her seemingly evil stepson and a house that appears haunted. Is the narrator finally in over her head? One thing is certain: something malicious exists, but where it originates and what can be done to stop it will keep you guessing. Continue reading “Staff Review: The Grownup”
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and the many women trailblazers who changed our country and the world, the name of an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, stands prominently in my mind. This is not only because she’s the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the highest court of the land, but also because to reach such a position, she had to overcome a lot of hardship and prejudice. In 2013, Sotomayor published her memoir “My Beloved World,” which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
Born in the South Bronx to a poor Puerto Rican family, little Sonya began showing the strength of her character at the age of nine, when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to learn to give herself insulin shots. Despite being raised in a family that hardly spoke English, Sotomayor was an excellent student – she was her high school valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude (the highest of three special honors for grades above the average) from Princeton and, while at Yale, was editor of the Yale Law Review. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice (2009), Sotomayor held a variety of positions: a district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, a partner in a private law firm, a justice of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York and, later, of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Continue reading “Her Beloved World: Sonia Sotomayor”
I love reading about history, especially histories with unique perspectives! Traditional histories omit so much, and what we know has been carefully shaped by what schools usually teach and promote. The myths these texts create often overshadow the realities.
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” is a book that dispels many of the myths surrounding indigenous people, such as the myth that the “New World” was sparsely populated at the time of first contact by Europeans or that their cultures were unsophisticated. The indigenous populations were actually much denser than European societies at the time, and they were “supportable because the people had created a relatively disease-free paradise. There certainly were diseases and health problems, but the practice of herbal medicine and even surgery and dentistry, and most importantly both hygienic and ritual bathing, kept diseases at bay. ” Continue reading “Staff Book Review: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”
You know those writers whose work is so captivating that you’d read their grocery lists? Jennifer McMahon is definitely one of those writers for me. As one half of a pair of sisters, I’m also sucker for a book where sisters play a prominent role, so it’s likely “The Night Sister” would’ve ended up on my bedside table one way or another. If you enjoy mysteries that feature multiple timelines, numerous points of view and the setting of a deliciously creepy house (or in this case, hotel-as-castle), then this book might be for you as well.
“The Night Sister” begins in the present with sisters Piper and Margot receiving the shocking news that childhood friend Amy has brutally slain almost her entire family and herself, with only her daughter escaping. Then the novel turns back half a century to the childhood of Amy’s mother and aunt. Rose and Sylvie live in the Tower Motel, built like a castle complete with tower. Sylvie dreams of escaping to Hollywood and becoming an actress, while Rose is caught up in the stories their grandmother told them of mares, shape-shifting monsters hidden inside regular-seeming people. Continue reading “Staff Review: The Night Sister”
“The Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher
Why I Read It: Jim Butcher + Steampunk = Gimme. Now.
What It’s About: Humanity lives in huge, stone Spires that rise above the surface and the monster-filled mists that cover it. Society is ruled by aristocratic houses that develop scientific marvels and build fleets of airships to keep the peace. Continue reading “Staff Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass”
“Traitor’s Blade” by Sebastien De Castell
Why I Checked It Out: Three best friends, roaming the kingdom, looking for justice and purpose? With swords? I’m in.
What It’s About: In the European-esque, medieval setting, the Greatcoats greatly resemble Jedi Knights. These men and women are skilled warriors, but they are more concerned with upholding the King’s Law and keeping peace among all the ambitious dukes and duchesses of the land. Or at least they were, until the death of the King and the end of his enlightened law.
Now Falcio, Kest, Brasti and the rest of the Greatcoats are disgraced and scattered, taking what work they can and struggling to finish the enigmatic final tasks left to them by the King. Continue reading “Staff Book Review: Traitor’s Blade”