Beartown

I have very few authors who are automatic reads for me – whose books I love so much that I will track their writings and pick up whatever comes next. Sarah J. Maas is becoming one of them, but Fredrik Backman is already there.

I’ve already talked about how much I utterly adore A Man Called Ove, which I maintain is still the perfect book to recommend to people. (And since I first read it a few years ago, it has definitely picked up steam in America – I feel like everyone at work has read it!).

His two other novels and his novella have followed similar strokes as Ove – a grumpy older main character, whimsy, and ultimately a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end (but still delivered in a satisfying, literary way). The reviews for his latest book, Beartown, warned that this novel was a departure from his normal style – and let me tell you, they were not kidding.

Beartown is broadly compared to a Swedish Friday Night Lights – a small town completely obsessed with hockey and that idolizes the teenage boys who are the star players; a town that gets torn apart by a tragedy and exposes what it means to be a community – for good and for evil.

WHAT I READ:

Beartown (Fredrik Backman)

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

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.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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I don’t want to expose too much about the book or its central tragedy (although it gets foreshadowed fairly often and occurs fairly early in the book) because the unfolding of the plot and its characters was so meaningful to me. I will just say that despite how hard it was to read this book at times and the ugly underbelly of communities it exposed, this book was an amazing read. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a beautifully written book about a heavy topic.

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A Man Called Ove

One of the most challenging questions I receive is the dreaded, “What book should I read?” It’s just so loaded. There’s a million books I love, but I can’t say for sure if my taste will align with yours, if you’re going to judge me for what I enjoyed, or what type of book perfectly fits your mood at the moment. There are just too many variables!

After last year, though, I found my go-to book to recommend: A Man Called Ove. Words cannot express how much I adore this book, and how strongly I feel everyone should read it. If you need a book to read, any book, I implore you to read this one.

My Goodreads review is short and simple: “Best book I’ve read this year. If I could give it ten stars, I would.”

WHAT I READ:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (technically not read in 2016… sorrrry)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 grumpy Swedish men, I give this 10 anthropomorphic cats.

#FirstFifty SYNOPSIS:

Ove’s day starts like all his other days for the last four decades: a thorough investigation of the neighborhood, carefully noting who may be flouting parking rules, locking up bicycles that should NOT be left by the fence, and ensuring the rules are being followed. However, his afternoon goes awry: just as he is prepared to hang himself, someone backs up a trailer into his mailbox (ignoring the sign prohibiting all motor traffic on the street!). He grumpily decides to postpone his suicide to ensure that these new neighbors don’t muck up the entire neighborhood, helping them back the trailer up correctly. After rudely rebuffing the friendliness of his new neighbors, he goes to the store for flowers and visits his wife at the cemetery – where he has gone to visit her every day for the last six months since her death.

The first fifty pages end with an explanation as to this man: he is a man called Ove. “People say he’s bitter… He doesn’t engage in small talk… He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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NEED MORE?

You guys, if you do only one thing I say, read this book. It’s an international bestseller for a reason. It was made into a movie in Sweden that was a smash hit, and has been finally distributed to some U.S. indie movie theaters. I made my gentleman go see it with me a few weeks ago, which he did a little begrudgingly (remember folks, this is a movie in Swedish and I couldn’t really figure out how to describe it except to say, “It’s about a grumpy old man in the neighborhood”). Reader, he loved it more than I did. At the end of the movie, he turned to me all choked up and confessed he almost cried several times, and that he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

So, if you, too, want to have your heart warmed in this winter of our discontent, READ THIS BOOK.