“Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.”
And so begins Beartown, Fredrik Backman’s new novel. Lord, is it good.
I don’t even know where to begin. I almost want to tell you to read it if you loved A Man Called Ove and even if you didn’t, because this book is so different from Backman’s earlier work. Read it if you are interested in hockey and even if you aren’t, because this book is about so much more than sports. Read it if you are drawn to flawed but endearing characters, a powerful story and masterful writing because this book offers up all of it.
The novel is officially about high school hockey but genuinely about the emotional character of the various misfits, dealmakers, jocks and musicians who make up Beartown, the rural forest community in Sweden where the book is set. There, something violent and terrible happens that drives the story forward with silent fury.
It tackles race and class and what life is like for those who don’t embrace or excel at hockey. We also see the complications of marriage, the strangeness of death and the beauty of friendship. After all: “Never again do you find friends like the ones you have when you’re fifteen years old.”
Best of all the book manages to depict how heartbreaking life with a teenager can be for parents. “It doesn’t take a lot to be able to let go of your child. It takes everything.”
Backman knows life isn't fair, horrible things happen – but he shows us too that love and friendship and even the smallest of dreams are worth celebrating.
Best paired with terrible coffee cold and gas-station sandwiches